Urge Secretary Clinton to Support Free, Fair and Inclusive Elections in Haiti

Letter from Congresswoman Maxine Waters urging colleagues to sign-on to a letter to Secretary Clinton regarding elections in Haiti

Urge Secretary Clinton to Support Free, Fair and Inclusive Elections in Haiti

Dear Colleague:

I ask you to join me in sending a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to urge her to support free, fair and inclusive elections in Haiti.

Haiti is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on November 28. These elections are particularly important to re-establish an effective legislature following the devastating earthquake last February, establish political accountability for the expenditure of large amounts of foreign assistance, and resolve Haiti’s current societal disputes in a peaceful and democratic manner.  It is imperative that these elections be free, fair, and inclusive, and result in a government that is legitimate and perceived as legitimate.

Please join me in urging Secretary Clinton to make a clear statement that elections must include all eligible political parties and ready access to voting for all Haitians, including those displaced by the earthquake. The letter also urges the United States government not to provide funding for elections that do not meet these minimum, basic democratic requirements.  The letter is attached.  If you have any questions or would like to sign on to the letter, please contact Kathleen Sengstock of my staff at 52201.

Sincerely,

Maxine Waters

Member of Congress

Sign on letter to Secretary Clinton urging U.S. support of free, fair and inclusive elections in Haiti:

Dear Secretary Clinton:

We are writing to express our concerns about the November 28 presidential and parliamentary elections in Haiti. We believe it is imperative that these elections be free, fair, and inclusive, and result in a government that is legitimate and perceived as legitimate. The November 28 elections are particularly important to re-establish an effective legislature, establish political accountability for the expenditure of large amounts of money, and resolve Haiti’s current societal disputes in a peaceful and democratic manner.

As it currently stands, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has decided to exclude candidates from over a dozen political parties from participating in the elections, including Fanmi Lavalas, Haiti’s largest political party. The exclusion will undermine both Haitians’ right to vote and the resulting government’s ability to govern.

Last November, the CEP, which was appointed through a process not recognized in Haiti’s Constitution, excluded 14 parties from parliamentary elections then scheduled for February 2010, without providing a written, comprehensive explanation. Although those elections were postponed and rescheduled for this November 28, the CEP refused to revisit the disqualifications, which have been widely condemned by civil society and parties across Haiti’s political spectrum. A previous CEP, with many of the same members, also excluded Fanmi Lavalas and other parties from Senatorial elections in April 2009. Haitian voters boycotted, and most observers estimated a 3-6% voter turnout.

Although some may argue that Haiti has more pressing problems, allowing flawed elections now will come back to haunt the international community later. Haiti’s next government will be called upon to make difficult decisions in the reconstruction process that will have a lasting impact on Haitian society, such as land reform and allocation of reconstruction projects among urban and rural areas. Conferring these decisions on a government perceived as illegitimate is a recipe for disaster.

Haiti’s next government will also have to ask its citizens to make sacrifices, such as losing land through eminent domain, or take risks, such as relocating to a new displacement camp. Citizens are unlikely to sacrifice for or trust a government that obtained power through dishonest means.

President John Kennedy famously remarked, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Running transparently unfair, exclusive elections, with the support of the international community, will leave many Haitians to conclude that they have no choice but to protest the elections and the consequent government through social disruption. That disruption threatens to severely limit such a government’s ability to govern, and imperils the United States’ past and future investments in Haiti’s reconstruction.

The CEP and international community must also ensure that all Haitians entitled to vote are afforded the opportunity to do so. This includes all those who have lost their voting cards and other identity documents in the earthquake this year, as well as those who have turned 18 since the last elections in 2006. We are particularly concerned that the 1.5 million people who have been internally displaced have access to identity cards and polling stations close to the camps where they live so that they can vote. This is also essential to holding legitimate elections.

We call on you to make a clear statement that elections must include all eligible political parties and ready access to voting for all Haitians, including the displaced. The United States government should also state unequivocally that it will not provide funding for elections that do not meet these minimum, basic democratic requirements.

Sincerely,