Martelly Appoints Duvalier Lawyer to Oversee Elections

by the Center
for Economic and Policy Research
Two weeks after
the Associated Press reported that the “old political party founded
under the Duvalier dictatorship says it plans to enter candidates in Haitian
elections,” President Martelly issued an executive decree naming one of Duvalier’s
lawyers, Frizto Canton, as a member on the body overseeing said elections.
            The holding of local and legislative
elections, now more than two years overdue, continues to cause controversy and
political gridlock in Haiti and consternation for the international community.
            The Special Representative of the
Secretary-General of the United Nations and head of MINUSTAH, Sandra Honore,
recently warned in a press release, co-signed by the so-called
“Friends of Haiti” group of countries, “that certain important decisions to
advance toward the holding of the elections have yet to be made” and that the
“inability to hold elections in 2014 could lead to the dissolution of
Parliament in January 2015 which would engender yet another political crisis,
with unpredictable consequences for the future of Haitian democracy.” This
followed visits by members of the U.S. Congress, U.S. State Department
representatives and the Club de Madrid, ostensibly to push elections forward.
            The gridlock between the senate and
the president stems from the composition of Haiti’s electoral body, tasked with
organizing and overseeing the electoral process. The international community
and President Martelly have continually referred to the “El Rancho Accord,”
which was the result of negotiations brokered by the Catholic Church, as
outlining the composition of the electoral council. However, the president of
the Senate, Simon Dieuseul Desras recently stated, as reported by Haiti
, that, “the El Rancho Accord has no binding force and
cannot override either the Constitution or the Electoral Law.” Desras added
that a “trusted electoral council of consensus would not take one week to set
            Martelly, apparently frustrated by
the Senate’s position, decided to move unilaterally today. The AP reports: “Haitian President Michel Martelly
announced Tuesday [May 6] he has appointed a new council to oversee legislative
and local elections that are two years overdue, an important step to organizing
a vote whose tardiness has frustrated many. In a posting on his Facebook page
and in a separate email, the leader said that the newest member of the council
is Frizto Canton, a high-profile attorney who is defending former dictator
Jean-Claude Duvalier against human rights abuse and embezzlement charges.”
            Although the international community
and U.S. State Department have largely blamed the electoral delays on the
Haitian parliament rather than on Martelly, the press release from the “Friends
of Haiti” also urged “all actors involved to make the concessions required to
create a climate of mutual trust and serenity to facilitate the work of an
Electoral Council which can provide the necessary guarantees for transparent
and inclusive elections.”

            It’s hard to believe the appointment
of Canton will help “create a climate of mutual trust” between all parties,
especially given the prominent role many officials during the
Duvalier era have been given in the current administration. Martelly announced
he would address the nation at 8 p.m. on May 6, with elections expected to be
the topic.