For Immediate Release Contact: Mikael Moore
October 14, 2005 (202) 225-2201
CONGRESSWOMAN WATERS SAYS THE INTERIM GOVERNMENT OF HAITI IS NEITHER ABLE NOR WILLING TO HOLD A FAIR ELECTION
Washington, D.C. – Today, on Capitol Hill, Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-35) released a statement on the upcoming elections in Haiti. The Congresswoman’s statement follows:
The interim government of Haiti has announced recently that the elections scheduled for November 20 will have to be postponed until December. It is the fourth time the interim government has changed the dates for the upcoming elections, and it is now clear that the interim government’s own incompetence along with its determination to manipulate the electoral process is responsible for the delay.
The Provisional Electoral Council attributes the delay to technical problems in organizing the elections, problems that any reasonably competent government could have avoided. The council has yet to hire hundreds of regional election supervisors, provide identification cards to three million registered voters, identify polling locations, or begin recruiting 40,000 poll workers to conduct the elections. All of these routine administrative details should have been anticipated when the interim government promised to hold elections a year-and-a-half ago.
The deadline for eligible voters to register for the elections has been postponed several times because few Haitians were able to register. Some voters had to walk twenty miles to register, and some had to return several times because the registration offices were closed when they arrived or the election workers did not have enough fuel to operate the generators for their computers.
Twenty-two of the 54 candidates who turned in applications to run for president were rejected by the Provisional Electoral Council for reasons that in some cases seem arbitrary. Some of the disqualified candidates are appealing their disqualifications to the Haitian Supreme Court. The Provisional Electoral Council cannot even begin to print ballots for the elections until the Supreme Court resolves these disputes and determines just who will be on the ballot and who will not be.
Many Haitians were enraged when the Haitian Supreme Court ruled that Dumarsais Simeus, a Texas business tycoon with U.S. government support, could run for president despite a constitutional prohibition on foreign citizens seeking the presidency.
One cannot help but wonder how many of these technical problems are the result of simple incompetence and how many are part of a deliberate effort to disenfranchise thousands of Haitians, especially those most likely to vote for Lavalas, the only political party with widespread support among the poor. Cite Soleil, a Lavalas stronghold with an impoverished population of 300,000, had no registration sites at all until after the September 30 registration deadline had passed.
Many of the Lavalas party’s most prominent members are unable to participate in the elections because the interim government is holding them in prison. Yvon Neptune, the former Prime Minister of Haiti, and Annette August, a popular Haitian singer, have both been detained illegally for over a year. Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a widely-respected Catholic priest who runs a soup kitchen for poor children, has been jailed without charges since July. When several of Father Jean-Juste’s supporters tried to register him as a candidate for president, they were told that candidates must appear in person in order to register.
Ironically, the Lavalas party’s name is expected to be on the ballot in Haiti. The Provisional Electoral Council certified a local politician named Marc Bazin as Lavalas’ candidate for president. This would be comparable to the U.S. government arresting John Kerry, John Edwards and Howard Dean before the 2004 New Hampshire Primary and then letting the Republican Party chose a Democrat to run against President Bush.
Even if the interim government manages to organize the elections by December, they cannot take place in the prevailing atmosphere of insecurity and violence. Criminal gangs terrorize the population, and numerous political groups representing both the wealthy elite and the impoverished supporters of Lavalas are believed to sponsor gang activity. The judicial system barely functions, and the Haitian police are corrupt and known for carrying out summary executions.
No matter what the date of the elections, the people of Haiti cannot be expected to take them seriously as long as voters are afraid to go to the polls and viable candidates are kept off the ballots and in the prisons. The repeated election delays and continuing technical problems of the Provisional Electoral Council are only the most recent evidence that the interim government of Haiti is incapable of organizing free and fair elections.