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7671: Aristide's proposal to end May 21st election impasse exceeds OAS recommendations (fwd)

From: MKarshan@aol.com


Date:       April 17, 2001                  

Contact:  Michelle Karshan, Foreign Press Liaison
           (011509) 228-2058

The elements of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s most recent position to
reduce the terms of all  members of Parliament elected May 21st, 2000.  This
proposal goes beyond the recommendations made by the OAS to resolve the
conflict surrounding the May 21st elections while the Democratic Convergence
has remained uncompromising. 

Background.  The May 21st elections were recognized as legitimate by the OAS
but the method of calculating the votes, which affected seven to nine (7-9) of
the senate seats, was called into question. The May 21st elections for 2,500
legislative, municipal and local seats involved 29,500 candidates and 11,238
polling sites.  The OAS Final Report of the Electoral Observation Mission for
Legislative, Municipal and Local Elections in Haiti stated that “May 21st was
a major success for the Haitian population who went to the polls in massive
numbers to choose local and national elected officials.” The OAS report
concluded that the vote transpired in an atmosphere of calm characterized by a
high level of participation estimated at 60%. The voter turnout figure was
consistent with the findings of the Haitian electoral council. 

A statistical compilation contained in the OAS report reveals that on the May
21st election day 92% of the polling sites had all their electoral materials;
all staff were present in 97% of the polling sites; national observers were
present in 85% of the polling sites; the police were present in 50% of the
polling sites; a security agent was present in 96% of the polling sites;
voting procedures were followed in 91% of the polling sites; major
irregularities capable of affecting the integrity of the process were observed
in only 5.4 % of the polling sites; and so-called acts of intimidation were
observed in less than 4% of the polling sites.

However, the OAS questioned the method adopted by Haiti’s electoral council to
calculate the percentage of votes obtained by senate candidates thereby
calling into question seven to nine (7-9) senate seats. The Provisional
Electoral Council of Haiti issued statements explaining in detail the
methodology employed in calculating the vote and reiterated that it did so
following the intent and spirit of the Electoral law in the case of elections
where there are multiple seats in a department. 

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s enormous efforts to move forward in a
spirit of compromise and consultation.  President Aristide, in keeping with
the 8-pt agreement with the United States, has been willing to work out a
compromise regarding the dispute arising from the May 21st elections and has
taken many steps to demonstrate his commitment to this end.  For example, the
creation of the Lissade Commission, personal participation in a meeting with
the Democratic Convergence, engagement of Fanmi Lavalas in intense
negotiations to reach accord on the appointment of a new provisional electoral
council able to schedule new runoff elections, the enlisting of the support of
five (5) Fanmi Lavalas senators and one (1) independent senator to abstain
from Senate activities, securing the resignation of the old electoral council
and the formation of a new provisional electoral council, all illustrating the
good faith efforts made by President Aristide and the government of Haiti to
resolve the electoral crisis. 

Going further, President Aristide’s most recent offer, made as part of his
pursuit of a negotiated settlement with the opposition to end the crisis,
would accelerate the electoral calendar by two (2) years and reduce the terms
of all senators and deputies elected on May 21st. The government proposed the
following calendar to the OAS last month.  

·   Early elections in November 2002 to renew the 1/3 of the Senate   elected
May 21st whose terms would have otherwise expired in January 2004;

·   Elections in November 2002 for all deputies elected May 21st whose terms
would have otherwise expired in January 2004;

·   Elections in November 2004 for the other 1/3 of the Senate elected on May
21st whose term would have otherwise expired in January 2006;

·   Organize complementary elections to arrive at a definitive solution to the
controversy raised in the May 21st election.

This proposal goes well beyond the recommendations made by the OAS and exceeds
the commitments already made by President Aristide in the 8-pt agreement
signed last December.  The OAS never questioned the legitimacy of the May 21st
elections and in fact affirmed them as free and fair with a 60% turnout.  The
OAS has never recommended that overall elections be held again. This is like
throwing out the baby with the bath water!  

The Democratic Convergence has stubbornly stuck to their “option zero”
strategy that calls for the elimination of the May 21st elections and the
holding of entirely new elections.  They also do not recognize any subsequent
elections to the May 21st elections despite the international community’s

During President Aristide’s recent undertaking for the creation of a new
provisional electoral council, he reached out to the Democratic Convergence,
as outlined in the 8-point agreement.  However, the Democratic Convergence
refused to participate in consultations for and the formation of the
provisional electoral council.  After their refusal the Aristide/Cherestal
Government named a new electoral council on March 2nd that includes members of
other political parties in the opposition and members of civil society.    

Although this new provisional electoral council has been installed, President
Aristide, in a gesture of true statesmanship, has again offered the Democratic
Convergence another opportunity to participate in the consultation and
formation of a replacement provisional electoral council, once there is
agreement reached on a reasonable electoral calendar. 

The Democratic Convergence, and its allies, have remained uncompromising and
have demonstrated their resolve to block democratic progress in Haiti.  While
the OAS report questioned the method adopted by the electoral council in
calculating the percentage of votes obtained by Senate candidates, thereby
calling into question seven to nine (7–9) senate seats, nowhere does the OAS
suggest that the entire elections for close to 7,500 seats be redone!  This is
the so-called “option zero” strategy stubbornly insisted upon by the
Democratic Convergence and is the principle reason why negotiations are

Haiti’s national treasury, already negatively impacted by the hold placed by
certain sectors of the international community on financial assistance, would
suffer a severe setback if the government were called upon to re-do the entire
May 21st elections.  The cost of holding an election of such magnitude is in
the millions, with the ballots alone costing more than 5 million dollars.
(Haiti currently has a budget deficit of approximately 44 million dollars that
is attributed to additional expenditures for the recent elections and
subsidies for petroleum fuels.)

Further, to insist on redoing the May 21st elections is to negate the
participation and courage of the Haitian voters who, despite many obstacles,
went to the polls to register their democratic rights.  Again, the OAS final
report estimated that participation at 60%.  

President Aristide’s efforts merit recognition and support.  At a luncheon
held by the National Association for the Advancement of Haitian People (NOAH),
a Washington-based professional and business organization, the OAS Adjunct
Secretary General, Ambassador Luigi Einaudi, denounced the “option zero”
strategy, called for sacrifices to be made through negotiations and reaffirmed
the international community’s recognition of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
as the legitimate and democratically-elected president of Haiti.   

Recent statements give encouragement that the international community is
committed to nurturing a compromise that respects the demonstrated will of the
Haitian people.  With elections being the foundation of a democracy, it is
important to show support and regard to those who exercised their electoral

Any support of the “option zero” strategy or of expedited elections before 
proposed calendar, which calls for partial elections to be held in 2002, flies
in the face of democratic principles and beliefs and only gives lip service to
the notion of compromising.

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