The elections planned by the U.S. and its allies
for Haiti in the fall are a fiasco that is becoming impossible
to conceal. Faced with the hopeless prospect of registering 4.5
million Haitians by August 13th (60 days before the first election
on October 13), Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (known by
its French acronym CEP) and the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti
have taken to issuing surreal and unsubstantiated statements about
the voter registration process.
By the end of May, out of 436 planned registration offices, the
Organization of American States admitted that only 14 had been
set up. The 436 offices, were they to exist, would still stand
in sharp contrast to the Haitian elections of 2000, where more
than 12,000 registration centers and polls served the Haitian people.
Observing this logistical nightmare, the National
Council of Electoral Observers expressed grave doubts about the
feasibility of registering
Haitian voters: "It would take 6 months to register 4 million
voters in the 436 registration offices projected across the country – that
is assuming that the offices were functional today, open 7 days
a week, 10 hours a day and staffed by competent technicians."
In early June, with the lack of registration
centers becoming a public relations disaster, and with less than
2% of eligible
Haitians registered to vote, the CEP and the U.N. appeared to agree
on a joint communications strategy. Every few days, one or the
other would announce the opening of new voter registration centers,
and the registration of additional Haitian voters – after all,
the numbers would be almost impossible for anyone to verify, especially
in the face of the skyrocketing violence in the country.
So, during a tidal wave of kidnappings which encouraged the U.S.
to withdraw its entire Peace Corps contingent as well as non-essential
embassy personnel, and issue a travel warning, the CEP and U.N.
reported that within the space of one solitary week in June, voter
registration centers in Haiti doubled, and then quadrupled again,
with a concomitant increase in voter registration that brought
the claimed total registrants to 3.5% of the potential total.
One might argue that the average Haitian, having nothing to lose,
and therefore nothing to fear from kidnappers, might choose to
spend his or her practically nonexistent free time hunting down
a registration center in order to be fingerprinted and photographed
in return for the right to vote. But it seems unlikely.
The average Haitian would have to get out of her neighborhood
first. There are no registration centers in the poor neighborhoods
and no plans to open any either. Poor Haitians have been terrorized
in their own homes by police and ex-militaries backed up by U.N.
forces. They have been fired upon by those same forces when they
gather in peaceful demonstrations demanding the return of the president
they elected last time, with 92% of the vote, Jean Bertrand Aristide.
Neither Aristide, nor his party, Fanmi Lavalas, is on the ballot
this fall, thanks to the U.S./French/Canadian supported coup, which
removed him to Africa last year, and Lavalas has sensibly refused
to join the elections unless the attacks against it stop.
Of course this is not to be discussed. With Aristide out of the
way, the whys and wherefores are of little interest to the international
community, who treat the democratic Haitian elections of 2000 and
the coup that overturned them as though it were all a bad dream,
better forgotten. Time to move on!
An election result more favorable to foreign business interests
has been in the works since long before Aristide won in 1990 and
again in 2000. As in Venezuela, the U.S. has funneled millions
of dollars to Haitian opposition parties through the pleasingly
named National Endowment for Democracy. The fall elections planned
for Haiti are the fruit of that investment; designed to give those
opposition parties the platform they have always desired, free
of competition from the 900 pound gorilla, Lavalas, but just to
cover the bet, free of potential Lavalas voters as well. Just last
week, a diplomatic source told Agence Haitienne Presse that the
international community was prepared to accept a Haitian election
with only 200,000 to 300,000 voters, or less than 7% of the electorate.
And why not? Evidence continues to emerge that the same international
community that howled about the invasion of Iraq was not only untroubled,
but supportive of the 2004 coup in Haiti. Yet, coups are by their
nature, nasty affairs that tend to leave lingering doubts about
the legitimacy of the replacement government. An election is the
tried and true method for erasing those doubts. That the Haitian
election is totally rigged seems to trouble no-one. International
election observers are already being prepared.
Sue Ashdown is affiliated with the
Washington, DC branch of the Women's International League for
Peace and Freedom, and can be reached at email@example.com. Olivia Burlingame Goumbri is Executive
Director of Ecumenical Program On Central America and the Caribbean,
also in Washington.