by Kevin Pina
Haiti’s Lavalas movement effectively destroyed the credibility of the April 19 Senate election through a successful boycott campaign called Operation Closed Door. Even the most generous electoral count puts participation at less than 10 percent in the capital of Port-au-Prince, while the actual figure may be as low as 3 percent nationwide.
According to Rene Civil, one of the spokespersons for Operation Closed Door: “What we are seeing is the non-violent resistance of the Haitian people to undemocratic elections. There is no way they will be able to call the senators elected in this process legitimate. You cannot hold elections without the majority political party.”
Ronald Fareau, another representative of the campaign, stated: “We want to congratulate the international community for their hypocrisy in these elections. They spent over $17 million on another electoral fraud in Haiti while our people continue to suffer from malnutrition and illiteracy.”
The controversy over the election began when factions of the Fanmi Lavalas party originally presented two slates of candidates to the Conseil Electoral Provisoire or CEP. In an apparent attempt to wrest control from Aristide, one faction led by former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune questioned the legitimacy of the slate presented by the former president’s appointed representative, Dr. Maryse Narcisse. Neptune’s faction presented a second slate, but in the end the Fanmi Lavalas party’s leadership managed to hammer out a compromise list of candidates in time to meet the deadline.
The CEP finally refused to accept the Fanmi Lavalas applications on the grounds they did not have former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s personal signature from exile in South Africa. The CEP reportedly would not allow for a facsimile copy of his signature on the documents when they were presented on the final day of the application deadline. This effectively excluded all Fanmi Lavalas candidates from participating in the election and led to the boycott of the Senate elections on Sunday.
Neptune and other members of his faction within the Fanmi Lavalas party called for participation in the election despite the nationwide boycott. Early Sunday morning Neptune said publicly on a local radio program, “We must vote today if we are to keep the integrity of the democratic process.”
When asked on Radio Caraibe’s Ranmase program if he had a message for voters, Neptune responded, “Vote well.” The success of yesterday’s boycott was taken as a referendum of support for Aristide by the base of the Lavalas movement in the much-touted internal party conflict.
Although there were some reports of sporadic violence in yesterday’s elections between supporters of current president Rene Preval’s Lespwa party and its rival, L’Union, the disruptions were isolated to a single city, Mirebalais, in the country’s Central Plateau region.
There were largely no reports of violence or voting irregularities in the capital, where streets and polling stations remained deserted throughout the day. The only incident occurred in the seaside shantytown of Cite Soleil after a member of the L’Union party was accused of handing out money and food to bribe voters.
Private vehicles and motorcycles were banned during the election as they were during the presidential election in February 2006. Where long lines formed at the polls early in the day on Feb. 7, 2006, polling stations remained virtually empty on Sunday due to the Lavalas boycott.
Five Lavalas hunger strikers continued to occupy Haiti’s parliament building in an effort to draw attention to their party’s exclusion from the election. They vowed to continue until the election is nullified and demanded that it be held over again during upcoming national elections scheduled for November.
On the following day, thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the parliament to support the hunger strikers as SWAT teams with the Haitian National Police, backed by U.N. military personnel, surrounded the building.
Popular initiative calls for removal of Bush appointee
A spokesperson for grassroots organizations aligned with Haiti’s Fanmi Lavalas party demanded the Obama administration remove current U.S. Ambassador Janet Sanderson. Reached by telephone in the capital of Port-au-Prince, a leader of a group calling itself the Popular Initiative stated, “She is lying about last Sunday’s elections by not acknowledging it was our boycott that kept voters away.”
He continued, “She claims it was because this was not a regular election year and that people may be tired of the political process. The only voter fatigue we have in Haiti is with undemocratic elections. Allow Fanmi Lavalas to participate and we’ll show you the voters have a lot of energy and enthusiasm for an authentic democratic process. She is out of touch with reality in Haiti.”
Haiti held controversial Senate elections last week that were boycotted by Fanmi Lavalas after all of their candidates were excluded on procedural grounds. Voters mostly stayed at home on Election Day after Lavalas launched a campaign called Operation Closed Door. The Obama administration is widely seen as having green lighted the contested elections after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Haiti three days prior to the ballot.
The Popular Initiative has also called for a re-evaluation of U.S. policy in Haiti by the Obama administration, claiming that its current direction is a holdover from the Bush administration. A second spokesperson in the conference call declared, “It is time for a real change in Haiti and that can only come by breaking with the past, which means the policies of the Bush administration. A good place to start is with the removal of Ambassador Sanderson, who was put in place by the Bush government.”
They also blamed Ambassador Janet Sanderson for pressuring the Preval administration to issue arrest warrants for 42 of the organizers of the election boycott, including five hunger strikers who were forced out of the parliament building by police earlier on Monday, the day after the election.
“She made remarks on the radio that the organizers should be investigated. Since then several of our people have been forced into hiding, including Rene Civil and Nawoon Marcellus. They have invented a new and bizarre charge, ‘obstruction of democracy,'” concluded the spokesperson.
At a press conference yesterday, the Popular Initiative and other groups aligned with Lavalas announced they would step up the pressure for the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide from exile in the Republic of South Africa. They declared May and June months of mass mobilization against elections that exclude Lavalas and to fight what they call the “growing misery and poverty as a result of the removal of our democratically elected president on Feb. 29, 2004.”
Kevin Pina is special correspondent to Flashpoints, heard weekdays at 5 p.m. on KPFA 94.1 and dozens of other stations nationwide. Haiti Information Project (HIP), winner of the Project Censored 2008 Real News Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism, is a non-profit alternative news service providing coverage and analysis of breaking developments in Haiti. Email HIP at HIP@teledyol.net. To learn more, visit www.haitiaction.net.