Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Fraud, Protest and the Haitian Presidential Election

Miami Herald is reporting that Port Au Prince has been paralyzed by massive protests featuring street barricades. Though the election was characterized by relatively little violence (relative to previous elections there), this tension is very dangerous. If the coup installed government feels that it can get away with repression right now, this might result in the type of violence that people had been fearing.

The Herald specifies the tension.

The airport was closed, and neither Haitian policemen nor members of the U.N. peacekeeping forces were visible on the increasingly tense streets early in the day.

Dozens of barricades, made from everything from rocks to old tires, old truck chassis and telephone poles, cut off all traffic around key parts of the city although no major outbursts of violence were reported.

The council's last report showed that with almost 90 percent of the polling places tallied, Preval was leading with 48.7 percent of the vote, short of the majority he needs to avoid a run-off. Far back in second was former president Leslie Manigat, with 11.8 percent.

But the delays in counting the vote, plus independent surveys from foreign electoral officials that gave Préval about 52 percent of the vote, are fueling suspicions that the nine-member electoral council is trying to force a run-off.

Furthermore, the AP is reporting that "A member of Haiti's electoral council said the presidential election results are being manipulated. And he's not alone." (referring to the rallying cries of the street protesters) "Council member Pierre Richard Duchemin said he needs access to the vote tallies to learn who is behind the alleged manipulation. He's calling for an investigation."

This news corroborates earlier reports by the Ezili Danto project of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network.

The widespread suspicion that its not who votes that count, but who counts the votes in Haiti. I am so far impressed by the discipline of the Haitian poor to stand up strongly for their 4th democratically elected president (all of the Lavalas Movement) after two coups and much political violence. That the crowd has avoided violence has also shown the moral highground, and will make it harder for the government to successfully launch a violence crackdown.

In anycase, solidarity activism in the U.S., France, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America are urgent right now. Perhaps more importantly, the international press has to step up, stop relying completely on un-elected government sources, and has to ask some tough questions and do some real investigative reporting. We must not let this election, with so much promise turn into another bloodbath of repression of the Lavalas movement by the Haitian elite and their powerful international allies.

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