A GUIDE TO DECODING HAITI’S SHAM ELECTION: “
by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
‘Down with all the candidates for president,
They want to sell out Haiti
To the Americans to fill their pockets.’
Haiti’s Nov. 28 general elections were a complete disaster, marred by
blatant and widespread fraud, manipulation and disenfranchisement.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) did a good job of summing
up many of the irregularities widely reported by both Haitian and
international media and observer teams: ‘inability of many voters to find
the correct Voting Center and/or Polling Station; inability of voters to
find their names on the electoral registers posted up outside the Polling
Stations; saturation of the call centers overwhelmed by callers seeking
where to vote; instances of incorrect application of voting procedures ( the
signing of the ballots by BV [voting bureau] Presidents before the arrival
of the voter); instances of voter manipulation – repeat voting of some
voters facilitated by complicit poll workers and unidentified party agents;
the lack of control of already limited voting space by the poll workers, as
well as the indiscipline of many mandataires [candidates’ observers], led to
clogged polling stations where control of the process became tenuous and
Furthermore, several candidates claimed that mandataires from President René
Préval’s party, Unity, took over voting bureaus around the country the night
before the election, not allowing entrance and observation by mandataires of
All of this comes on top of the Provisional Electoral Council’s (CEP)
original and most important sin: the arbitrary and unjustifiable
disqualification of exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Lavalas
Family (FL), Haiti’s largest and most popular party.
The debacle moved 12 of Haiti’s 18 presidential candidates to issue a joint
declaration in an unprecedented joint press conference at Pétionville’s
Caribe Hotel on Sunday afternoon calling to annul the elections because ‘the
government of René Préval, in agreement with the CEP, is putting into
execution the plan hatched to tamper with the elections … with the help of
the official political party and its candidate, Jude Celestin.’
(Faux-Lavalas candidates Yvon Neptune and Yves Cristallin attended the
candidates’ pre-press-conference conclave but did not sign the statement.)
Despite everything, the CEP proclaimed the election satisfactory. ‘We cannot
say it was a 100% success, but the day was successful,’ declared the CEP’s
general director Pierre Louis Opont. Only 56 of the 1500 voting stations
nationwide, or 3.56%, had irregularities, the CEP claimed.
As usual, Washington let its vassals in the Organization of American
States/CARICOM Joint Mission be the first to rubberstamp the CEP’s charade.
After noting many irregularities including ‘deliberate acts of violence and
intimidation to derail the electoral process both in Port-au-Prince and the
provinces,’ CARICOM’s Assistant Secretary General Colin Granderson said ‘the
Joint Mission does not believe that these irregularities, serious as they
were, necessarily invalidated the process.’
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley concurred, calling the election
‘a significant step for Haiti.’
With the U.S. paying for about half of the $30 million election, events
unfolded pretty much as one would expect: a massacre of democracy which is
then justified by its sponsors.
But this is where things get more complicated, and events might take some
unexpected twists. So here is a five-point guide of things to watch for in
the coming days as the magouy or monkey-business multiplies.
1) JUDE CÉLESTIN IS NOT THE ONLY – OR REAL – CANDIDATE BEING ‘SELECTED’
The way much of the media has framed the election, the people will be
victorious if any presidential candidate other than Jude Célestin wins. In
reality, the U.S., and even Préval, appear to have been preparing for
another candidate’s victory for some time.
Although a Célestin ‘selection’ cannot be completely dismissed, there have
been grave doubts among Unity’s leadership about Célestin’s viability due to
his numerous legal and financial problems, his apparently phony engineering
degrees, and his uninspiring oratory. Already Sen. Joseph Lambert, Unity’s
campaign chief, has said the party ‘is ready to accept democratic change,’
and ‘if we’ve lost the elections at the presidential level we’ll go into
A more likely ‘selection’ appears to be that of Mirlande Manigat, the wife
of former military-junta-puppet-president Leslie Manigat. She boasts broad
support not just from Haiti’s bourgeoisie, but also from political thugs
like Sen. Youri Latortue (recently accused of being a former death-squad
leader) and Guy Philippe, the perpetually elusive leader of the
death-squad/soldier ‘rebels’ that helped overthrow Aristide in 2004.
Most importantly, Manigat is favorably viewed by the U.S., French, and
Canadian Embassies, Haiti’s ultimate king and queen makers.
Compas musician Michel Martelly and notary Jean-Henri Céant are also
possible ‘selections.’ Martelly was a prominent supporter of both coups
(1991-94 and 2004-06) against Aristide. Céant has postured as the antidote
to Lavalas’ electoral exclusion who will bring Aristide back from exile. But
both Aristide and FL spokeswoman Maryse Narcisse have made clear that the
party has no truck with the ‘selections’ and no ‘stealth’ candidate. Céant
admitted he even traveled to France to meet with and woo back former
dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in an effort to show how ‘broad’ and ‘all
inclusive’ his government would be.
2) PRÉVAL FACES A DIVIDED OPPOSITION
Already opportunism has rent the historic show of unity made by the 12
‘opposition’ candidates on Nov. 28. The following day, when the CEP (perhaps
slyly) suggested that Martelly and Manigat were leading in preliminary vote
tabulations, both candidates unceremoniously dropped their calls to annul
the election. Neither showed up at the meeting the 12 candidates had planned
for the next day, which Céant condemned on Radio Signal FM as ‘very grave.’
Martelly even denied that he had signed the joint declaration, saying it was
not an ultimatum but just a ‘request,’ which the CEP ‘chose not to agree to’
and ‘it has the final word.’ Thus, he is now ready to ‘respect the popular
verdict,’ he said, secure in the belief that he will be the winner.
Manigat, after saying the elections were ‘organized robbery’ on Sunday,
backtracked on Monday, telling the Haitian Press Agency that she had
received ‘guarantees from the CEP and the government’ and was ‘still in the
race and had a good chance of winning.’
‘I am coherent and I keep my word,’ Céant responded to the betrayals. ‘We
have to completely break with these old tricks. If we use them, we become no
different than those we are fighting.’
In short, despite nationwide protests, there is no indisputable leader of
either the disgruntled candidates calling for a rematch or popular
organizations calling for the CEP’s overhaul, facilitating the electoral
forced march of Préval and his international sponsors.
3) CONTROL OF THE PARLIAMENT IS KEY TO CONTROL OF HAITI
While the media’s focus has been primarily on the presidential race, equally
important are the contests for one-third of the Senate (11 seats) and all 99
Deputies. The President must choose a Prime Minister, who actually wields
executive power, from the Parliament’s majority party. With more candidates,
money and organization, the ruling party, which by default swept last year’s
massively boycotted partial Senate elections, is likely to again control
Parliament. This will completely hamstring any non-Unity president, who will
already be weak and assailed coming from this clearly compromised polling.
4) FAIR ELECTIONS WOULD REQUIRE A NEW CEP
In the face of protests, the CEP has already reassured voters and candidates
that voting will be reheld wherever there were major problems. However,
popular organizations grouped around the Heads Together of Popular
Organizations (Tet Kole) and others have been saying in press conferences
and demonstrations for months that the CEP, hand-picked by Préval, is too
corrupt and has to be overhauled and selected by popular and representative
civil society groups or a provisional government (which is essentially how
the 1990 CEP was formed). Gaillot Dorsinvil, the CEP’s Secretary General, is
viewed as particularly slavish to Préval.
5) HAITI IS STILL MILITARILY OCCUPIED AND EFFECTIVELY ADMINISTERED BY
FOREIGNERS AND THEIR MINIONS
The real power in Haiti lies militarily with the 13,000-soldiers of the U.N.
Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) and economically with the Interim
Commission to Reconstruct Haiti (CIRH), headed by former U.S. President Bill
Clinton. This control effectively neuters any sovereignty that these
elections might aspire to.
One of the final acts of Haiti’s last Parliament in April was to pass a law
empowering the completely unelected 26-member CIRH (composed half of foreign
bank and government representatives, half of Haitians from or beholden to
Haiti’s ruling elite) to decide and direct how to spend the $10 billion in
international assistance raised to rebuild Haiti after the Jan. 12, 2010
earthquake. That mandate will continue at least until the end of 2011.
Meanwhile, MINUSTAH’s mandate continues until Oct. 14, 2011, and the UN
Security Council has given no signs of wanting to pack up the operation
anytime soon. Several UN officials have spoken of decades of ‘commitment.’
However, the Haitian people’s resentment has turned to rage after learning
that MINUSTAH troops likely introduced deadly cholera into Haiti, and there
is a rapidly growing anti-occupation movement.
In short, the election, which will likely go to a Jan. 16 run-off after
final tallies are announced Dec. 20, may well result in a president other
than Célestin, but this makes it no less a ‘selection.’ Préval’s main
concern is to retire to his hometown of Marmelade without threat of
prosecution or exile, a matter he has reportedly broached with several
candidates. Washington, with its partners in Paris and Ottawa, is primarily
interested in installing a government which will follow orders and not
exhibit any ‘nationalist’ tendencies, as one U.S. Embassy cable (released
this week in the giant WikiLeaks document dump) complained about Préval. In
the final analysis, whoever is elected president in these ‘occupation
elections’ will be little more than a ‘portrait,’ as Haitians say.