Thanks in part to your response to our last Half Hour for Haiti Action Alert, 45 Members of Congress have signed on to Representative Maxine Waters’ letter to Secretary of State Clinton urging fair, free, and inclusive elections in Haiti. Thank you for calling your Representatives to encourage them to sign on to the letter. The letter has received extensive press coverage, including articles in BBC, Reuters, AFP, The Hill, and the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
The letter has made a splash and is continuing to gain momentum. The Department of State is under pressure to answer tough questions about U.S. taxpayers’ money funding flawed elections in Haiti. In a press conference last week, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said,
obviously, we want free, fair, democratic, transparent elections to take place in Haiti as well. And we’ll look into these allegations and the letter and comment later. We just — I’m sure we’ll review it and respond appropriately.
At IJDH, we are working to keep the pressure on and enforce the rights of all Haitians, including the 1.3 million internally displaced earthquake victims, to vote in fair and inclusive elections. We thank you for taking action to support this effort, and ask you to continue taking action by signing the petition to urge free, fair, and inclusive elections in Haiti.
As your constituent, I strongly encourage you to add your name in support of a letter recently signed by 45 of your colleagues, urging Secretary Clinton to to support free, fair and inclusive elections in Haiti this November.
Your colleagues are concerned that the exclusion of over a dozen political parties – including the country’s largest party, Fanmi Lavalas – from the November ballot is undemocratic and unconstitutional. They also raise concerns about Haitian voters having access to voting cards and polling stations, particularly those voters displaced by the devastating earthquake earlier this year. The signers of the letter believe that if the Haitian government does not implement basic democratic reforms, the election will not be viewed as legitimate by the Haitian people or the international community, the next government will lack the ability to govern, and the ongoing recovery process could be impeded.
On October 8, 120 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who have recently served in Haiti’s neighboring country, the Dominican Republic, sent Secretary Clinton a petition asking that the U.S. stipulate funding for the Haitian elections on the full participation of all political parties and an active engagement to ensure that voters among the 1.5 million internally displaced Haitians are not disenfranchised. This proposal was also signed by the National Peace Corps Association President Kevin Quigley and the founding president of RPCV-comprised NGO “Friends of the Dominican Republic” Neil Ross.
In addition, over 20 organizations in the U.S. and Haiti signed this petition in September. These include Action Aid USA, Center for Constitutional Rights, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, the National Lawyers Guild, and the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church.
Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has scheduled parliamentary and presidential elections for November 28th of this year, elections postponed due to the devastating January 12 earthquake. I am deeply concerned that the CEP has barred more than a dozen political parties from presenting candidates in the elections without serious justification. I am also dismayed to note that, as yet, no serious measures appear to have been taken to guarantee that the over one million Haitians that have been displaced by the earthquake will be able to vote. The United States government has committed important funding to these elections and is playing a key role within the OAS Group of Friends of Haiti to assist with the electoral process; it therefore has a real responsibility to make certain that these elections serve to strengthen Haiti’s fragile democracy rather than further undermine it.
Current Challenges to the Electoral Process
Haiti currently faces three major challenges relating to the upcoming elections: a legitimacy crisis for the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP); the exclusion of a number of political parties from the electoral process; and the ability to provide voter identity cards and access to the polls for all eligible voters, particularly those displaced by the earthquake.
The CEP – the state authority in charge of organizing and controlling electoral processes – currently has limited constitutional legitimacy or credibility in Haiti because: a) the CEP was established through a process not recognized by the Haitian Constitution; b) it has announced the unjustified exclusion of more than a dozen parties from the November 28, 2010 elections; c) the current CEP is rocked by scandals, with one member resigning this month in the face of corruption charges.
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) reported in April 2010 that, ‘‘giving the mandate of organizing the upcoming elections to the current CEP would mean that the electoral process will be considered flawed and questionable from the beginning.’’ Haitian voters and political organizations from across the political spectrum as well as important actors in the international community, including Senator Richard Lugar of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and IFES, consider that a new CEP should be established as they consider that the Council’s actions and current controversies demonstrate an inability to conduct fair, inclusive elections. Nevertheless, President Préval continues to insist that the current CEP run the scheduled elections.
A second major concern is the exclusion of more than a dozen parties from the electoral process, including Haiti’s most popular party Fanmi Lavalas (FL). As was the case in April of 2009, in which fewer than 10% of the electorate turned out to vote, the continued exclusion of electoral candidates will undermine the legitimacy of the upcoming November elections and could lead to political and social unrest that could greatly hinder Haiti’s reconstruction and development plans, and imperil U.S. investments in Haiti.
Representatives of the United Nations and the Organization of American States objected to the CEP’s exclusions of political parties from the elections in April 2009 and the U.S. Embassy in Haiti stated that “under the law, elections should involve all major parties… An election based on the exclusion… will inevitably question the credibility of elections in Haiti among donors and friends of Haiti.” However, despite this strong criticism, the US government provided significant funding for the electoral process and chose to recognize the election outcome.
I am also concerned by the lack of effective measures underway to guarantee that the hundreds of thousands of eligible voters among the over 1.5 million people displaced by the earthquake are assured the identification cards (Cartes d’identité nationale – CINs) required for voting as well as reliable and uncomplicated access to the polls on election day. I am encouraged to learn that the OAS committed to providing 850,000 CINs to new voters and the many Haitians who lost their cards in the earthquake.
However, I note with dismay that no plan has yet been implemented for the enormous and complex task of providing CINs to the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who need them. It is imperative that in the coming weeks mobile teams be dispatched to IDP camps and remote rural areas so as to distribute these cards effectively in time for the November elections.
Furthermore, there is no indication that plans are underway to make voting centers genuinely accessible to those in IDP camps. As the IFES has stated, polling centers need to located near IDP camps and transportation must be provided for those who cannot easily access the centers. Notwithstanding these measures, many of those most affected by the earthquake will suffer the additional injustice of being disenfranchised in one of the most important electoral processes of their lives.
The international community has an interest in promoting Haitian voters’ rights to fair elections guaranteed by Haitian and international law, and protecting its $11 billion pledged investment in Haiti’s reconstruction. In order to protect these interests, I urge the United States to immediately take the following actions immediately:
1. Withhold financial support for elections until the CEP is replaced by a new Council chosen through a process that ensures neutrality, competence and credibility with Haiti’s voters.
2. Adopt a clear, firm position on the need for the upcoming elections to be free, fair and open to all of Haiti’s political parties.
3. Promise adequate funding and technical assistance for a fairly-chosen CEP to prepare elections.
This support should cover the following:
a. Production and distribution of the National Identification Cards (CINs) lost or destroyed in the earthquake that are a legal requirement for voting.
b. Updating of the electoral list. Photographs on the CIN and indelible ink can also be used to combat multiple voting.
c. Placing of polling stations in areas allowing internally displaced, poor, and disabled Haitians to participate.
d. Provision of extensive voter education through media campaigns and community meetings.
I urge you to join your colleagues in ensuring that the U.S. Administration carries out the aforementioned actions in the most expedient manner possible. The upcoming elections will set the stage for long-term reconstruction efforts and if they are to unfold successfully urgent action is required.
Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to the concerns raised in this letter. I hope to see you add your endorsement to the letter urging Secretary Clinton to promote free, fair and inclusive elections in Haiti, signed by the following Representatives:
Maxine Waters; Donald Payne; William Delahunt; Barbara Lee; Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Alcee L. Hastings; Charles B. Rangel; Jan Schakowsky; Dennis Kucinich; Hank Johnson; Jim McDermott; Yvette D. Clarke; John W. Olver; Keith Ellison; Sam Farr; Donna M. Christensen; Raúl Grijalva; Michael Honda; Betty McCollum; Laura Richardson; Alan Grayson; Chellie Pingree; Eleanor Holmes Norton; Danny K. Davis; Sheila Jackson Lee; Elijah Cummings; Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick; Lynn Woolsey; Chaka Fattah; Fortney “Pete” Stark; Al Green; Stephen Lynch; Donna F. Edwards; John Lewis; Bob Filner; Diane Watson; Bennie G. Thompson; Tammy Baldwin; John Garamendi; Bobby L. Rush; Jesse L. Jackson Jr.; Bart Gordon; Melvin L. Watt; Corrine Brown; Lucille Roybal-Allard.