By Judith Scherr, Free Speech Radio News
Haiti is preparing for presidential, parliamentary and local elections on November 28th, but there’s growing concern about whether the electoral process will be free and fair. At least 14 parties including Haiti’s largest, Fanmi Lavalas, are barred from participating. Leaders of at least five of the excluded parties are calling for non-participation in the vote. So are many homeless earthquake survivors who say they won’t vote until living conditions improve.
Judith Scherr has the story.
Many residents are frustrated by the Provisional Electoral Council’s decision to bar certain parties from fielding candidates. One of those parties is Fanmi Lavalas, the popular party of exiled president Jean Bertrand-Aristide.
At a protest against the exclusion of Lavalas near the electoral offices, demonstrators eased into the street and stopped traffic in both directions. U.N. troops kept them a block away from their destination, but they continued their chants calling for the grassroots to mobilize.
Dr. Maryse Narcisse is the Lavalas Party’s national spokesperson.
MARYSE NARCISSE: Everybody who’s supporting this process doesn’t believe in democracy. Even the international community. They are speaking loudly about democracy, about human rights, but what is being done now is not democracy, is not human rights. We are not participating.
Narcisse says the electoral council is illegitimate because it wasn’t elected as mandated by the Haitian constitution. She condemns its refusal to accept authentication of Aristide’s signature naming her as responsible for re-registering Fanmi Lavalas as a party.
A movement among displaced people living in camps also opposes the elections.
Near the airport, camp leader David Bazil took FSRN on a tour of the 310-family camp, pointing out pools of stagnant mosquito-infested water, stinking latrines and torn tents and tarps — the only shelter many families have nine months after the earthquake hit.
DAVID BAZIL: Elections won’t change anything. People are sick, homeless and hungry; there’s no way they can participate. We work with other camp councils and the word we’ve put out is if our conditions don’t improve, there’s no way we’ll be part of the election.
Nonetheless, some people, such as Lavarice Gaudin, are encouraging people to vote, especially for local officials. The elections council barred Gaudin from running for president. The council didn’t give a reason, but Gaudin suspects it’s because they believe he didn’t meet the five-year residency requirement.
LAVARICE GAUDIN: The election today, it would not be a fair election. They tried to get rid of all the right candidates, try to select the government candidate. But nonetheless, we have to see whom we can vote for as a congressperson. We have to see whom we can vote for as the mayor. From that, we can see what is the little change that we can make from one community to another.
Another view is that participation strengthens the democratic process begun two decades ago. Aristide’s former prime minister Yvon Neptune has broken with Fanmi Lavalas and is running for president with Haiti For Haitians.
YVON NEPTUNE: There is a democratic process that … started in Haiti in 1990 with the election of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and I always believe that we should continue with the process. We should not stop and try to destroy and start again without knowing, when we start again, if we are going in the right direction.
Neptune said the electoral council has not been elected as required for 20 years, and that Fanmi Lavalas is blaming it for problems that are actually its own internal divisions.
Meanwhile, U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters is encouraging her colleagues to sign on to a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton questioning the electoral council’s decisions to exclude so many parties and questioning the legitimacy of the elections. Waters is urging Clinton to withhold the U.S. portion of the $29-million promised to support Haiti’s elections until, she says, preparations meet “minimum, basic democratic requirements.”
– Judith Scherr, FSRN – Port Au Prince
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