Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Haitian Elections

Even those who have been following the struggles of the Haitian people may have forgotten that today was the date for the presidential elections to replace the interim government swept to power in the coup of February 2004. Until last night I did not even believe that the elections would be carried out because they had already been postponed by the unelected interim government.

Kevin Pina and the Haiti Information Project published an article yesterday about the Dark Storm Brewing
in Haiti due to the elections. Of a recent Gallup poll in Haiti he says

[the] poll inadvertently exposed ... the true numbers and strength of the movement that ousted Aristide. While the opposition to Aristide was portrayed in the press as a broad movement with widespread public support, the poll shows the political parties that led the movement are mostly polling in single digit numbers and combined represent less than 30% of the electorate. The major candidate representing the movement, Baker, is only polling at 10%.

On the eve of the elections, what is equally clear is that the majority of Preval supporters are drawn from the same base of the electorate that supported Aristide and his political party known as Lavalas. It is comprised mostly of peasant farmers in the countryside and urban slum dwellers in Haiti's major cities.

He also says internet chat of the Haitian elite forshadows potential problems.

Hundreds of letters currently circulating on the Internet to plant the concept of "resisting" the outcome of the elections if Preval wins as expected.

What all of this really shows is that the so-called "forces of democracy" that overthrew Aristide, and were backed by the United States, France and Canada, were anything but democratic.

According the the Miami Herald, disorganized and late opening polling stations caused confusion and anger that saw the death of one person in a stampede. They also add

at one of three polling centers that serves the volatile slum of Cité Soleil -- a place where electoral officials and U.N advisors have repeatedly assured wary voters and observers that they were prepared -- supervisors were woefully unprepared.

By 6 A.M. when the center was supposed to open, an estimated 3,000 people had lined up. They continued to arrive by the hundreds, marching excitedly and jogging. An hour later there were at least 5,000 lined up a half-mile back.

Most said said they were there to vote for Réne Préval

and that problems were "isolated to parts of the capital"

While BBC had woefully poor coverage of the election, at one point suggesting that "he took a US flight in early 2004 to South Africa, where he remains in exile." While this may sound like Aristide boarded an US Airways flight to Capetown, he claims to have been kidnapped by American forces, and was, in fact, taken to the Central African Republic where he was held for several days.

To BBC's credit, they have finally have taken down the misleading and poorly researched analysis piece "Aristide's Shadow" that argued that Aristide was to blame for the violence that resulted after the coup that forced him from the country.

While allegations of fraud have been reported, it looks like Preval will prevail. However, a second round of elections will be needed if Preval does not win %50 (which some argue is likely). Furthermore, as two coups in the last 20 years suggests, power may not be handed over by tillegitimateate authorities. For this reason it is urgent that Haitian solidarity activists join together now and formulate an action plan to mobilize on behalf of Haitian democracy and be willing to pressure American, French, Canadian and Haitian authorities when the right to democracy is violated. This is a long term project, but now is a critical phase that demands action.

Andrea Schmidt on Democracy Now points out the obvoius that other news sources ignored. The same places where voters had the most difficulty voting were the poorest neighborhoods like Cite Soleil and Bel Air. Not only were polling stations purposely kept out of these neighborhoods, but they were not set up on time, ballot boxes arrived late, and polling stations opened many hours late. Schmidt continues that, while voting in wealtheir neighborhoods we're orderly, well-prepared and timely, voting in Cite Soleil "looked less like a mob mentality than an organized campaign of disenfranchisement."

Amy Goodman also interviews recently freed political prisoner and banned Lavalas party presidential candidate Gerard Jean Juste.

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