Who Is Afraid of Elections?

by Yves Pierre-Louis
Since the formation of an electoral body known as the Transitional College for the Permanent Electoral Council (CTCEP), the administration of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe has not shown any real willingness to advance the process that would allow, in an acceptable time-frame, elections for Senate seats and for local authorities.

            At least six meetings requested by close advisors to Lamothe never took place. Only recently did the Prime Minister agree to meet with CTCEP members at the Planning Ministry, and four days later, on Jun. 19, he visited the council. This Monday, Jun. 24, another meeting took place as all sorts of rumors spread and pressures, both from in Haiti and abroad, are starting to be felt.
            Following Lamothe’s visit to the CTCEP, its president Emmanuel Ménard said that the council was progressing satisfactorily towards holding senatorial and local elections. Meanwhile, CTCEP member Léopold Berlanger predicted that the electoral law will be ready by July and that the funds to hold the elections would be released shortly thereafter, making elections possible before the end of 2013.
            Trying to divert attention away from Lamothe’s poor performance over two years since becoming Prime Minister, those close to the government have been circulating rumors that President Martelly intends to end the 49th legislature in January 2014, when the terms of another third (10) of the Senators will expire, thus rendering the Parliament defunct.  (One third of the Senate’s seats expired already in January 2012.) Article 111-8 of the 1987 Haitian Constitution is contradictory: “In no case may the House of Deputies or the Senate be dissolved or adjourned, nor shall the terms of their members be extended.” Senate President Simon Desras Dieuseul and some of his colleagues have already warned President Martelly to not pursue this project which aims to destabilize Haiti’s institutions, thus reducing democracy and the rule of law.
            Political parties, including the Fanmi Lavalas Political Organization, excluded from electoral processes since 2004, say they are willing to participate in elections. Herasme Delis, a Dominican reporter, pointed out that: “If the election were held today in Haiti, Fanmi Lavalas, the party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, would win hands down.”
            Meanwhile, Washington is also pressuring Haitian leaders to hold elections before the end of 2013. On Wednesday, Jun. 19, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden spoke with Martelly by phone.”Vice President Biden … encouraged President Martelly to hold senatorial and local elections this year. The Vice President underscored the importance of elections in solidifying Haiti’s democratic foundation.”
            Tellingly, a statement from the National Palace makes no mention of elections in the phone conversation. “For about an hour, the two officials discussed the strengthening of Haitian-American relations in general, U.S. aid to Haiti, strengthening institutions, the Caracol Industrial Park, and travel warnings in particular.” Martelly also claimed that Washington “recognizes the efforts of the [Haitian] Government in the fields of democracy, human rights, and the fight against corruption.”
            What have been “the efforts” of Martelly and Lamothe? Elections, which are the foundation of bourgeois democracy, have not been organized for more than two years and are still not on track. Human rights implies respecting the political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights of people; currently none of these rights are respected. Elections are not completed on time, unemployment is over 80% of the active population, and the environment is degrading. Corruption is a cancer hollowing out Haiti’s public administration, and it has become the very tool used by the Martelly regime to stay in power. Haiti is in the clutches of “legal bandits,” the term made famous by a Sweet Micky song.
            Clearly, the Martelly-Lamothe has shown no interest until now in holding elections before the end of 2013, but it is under pressure from Washington. Martelly wants to drag his feet so that Parliament’s mandate expires, creating a chaotic situation in which he can rule by decree and to better establish a dictatorial regime.