Don’t blame Haiti’s people for election troubles

Demonstrators march in the street during a protest against the country’s electoral council in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Dec. 12. (Dieu Nalio Chery/Associated Press)
December 15 at 5:38 PM

Regarding the Dec. 12 editorial “Haiti’s crucial election”:

Ten years ago, the Haitian rulers of the day were dragging their feet on elections, just as the current ones did. The United States and its allies, who were footing the bill, insisted that a capable manager be put in charge: Jacques Bernard, a Haitian banker and industrialist. He set up a computerized tabulation center and secured the routes of the ballots to it. Haiti then had its three freest elections in history.

Mr. Bernard was soon squeezed out by a president who had other plans for the electoral machinery, but he was renominated this year. And who stepped forth to block his nomination? The United States. Whatever the reasons, they paled next to the transcendental importance of having a free election. In Mr. Bernard’s place came a typical intriguer who disqualified modernizing candidates and put in criminals. Public confidence took a nose dive, making it easy for powerful losing candidates to cry massive fraud.Our organization sent out 180 observers who didn’t find fraud in the actual voting, but theirs will be a cry in the wilderness. The U.S.-engineered loss of the neutral commissioner has created a commission that few can trust. Before blaming the Haitians, we need to get our own policy right.

James Morrell, Washington

The writer is director of the Haiti
Democracy Project.

The first transition from one democratically elected president to another in Haiti took place in 1996 when René Préval succeeded Jean-Bertrand Aristide, not when Michel Martelly became president. That said, the Dec. 12 editorial manifested an unfortunate condescending attitude toward Haiti and its people.

By suggesting that the grossly fraudulent presidential ballot of Oct. 25, vehemently under protest by Haitian citizens, including prominent church and civil society leaders, is good enough to have a runoff, the editorial joined the Haitian and international actors who repeatedly have thwarted the quest of most Haitians since the 1986 collapse of the Duvalier dictatorship to elect their leaders through free and fair, “one person, one vote” elections. If international actors truly wished to assist Haiti’s struggling democratic process, they would support honest elections, not side with the fraudsters who are blatantly stealing the vote.

International election observers are not an effective means to ensure a democratic process, particularly when the objective seems simply to be able to check an “elections done” box. Siding with citizens seeking truly transparent elections would demonstrate respect for Haiti’s long-suffering people.

Robert Maguire, Cheverly

The writer is director of George Washington University’s  Focus on Haiti Initiative.


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