Haiti just elected a new president, Jovenel Moïse, after over a year of delays and even a rerun of the elections that originally placed Moïse as the front-runner. Unfortunately, and to the concern of many, Moïse was chosen by less than 10% of the electorate with only 20% of voters even participating at all. The complicated reasons for this lack of voter participation have been decades in the making, including consolidation of power on the right; coups against a popular Haitian leader; and interference by the international community. As IJDH Director Brian Concannon describes, much of the weaknesses and limitations on the left “can be explained by the undermining and overthrowing of the Lavalas governments, which prevented them from demonstrating how democracy can work, and the killing, jailing, and exiling of important leaders.” Frustrated with all this, most Haitians cannot picture their votes resulting in positive changes in their country. How do we restore faith in Haiti’s broken democratic process?
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Haiti’s Eroding Democracy
Jake Johnston, Jacobin
February 13, 2017
After more than a year of delays, Haiti finally elected a new president this past November. Jovenel Moïse – nicknamed the Banana Man – scored a first-round victory in a sprawling field of twenty-seven candidates, taking over 55 percent of the vote. The banana exporter, who has never held public office, was inaugurated on February 7.
The previous president, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, seemingly plucked Moïse out of nowhere last year, making him the new face of the Haitian Bald-Headed Party (PHTK). Moïse’s win is an extraordinary achievement for a political neophyte, but it has one glaring problem: only 20 percent of Haiti’s voters showed up on election day. Moïse became president with less than 10 percent of registered voters – only about 600,000 votes – supporting him.
Haiti stands as a stark reminder of the fragility of electoral democracy amid rising inequality and exclusion. After the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti’s poor majority turned out en masse for general elections, but that cycle appears to be broken. Today, Haiti ranks among the lowest worldwide in terms of voter participation.
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