Haiti’s election circus continues, and Wyclef Jean won’t take no for an answer


by Charlie Hinton

On Friday, Aug. 20, Haiti’s Electoral Council ruled that only 19 of the 34 declared candidates could run for president, eliminating the other 15, including rap artist Wyclef Jean, supposedly because he didn’t meet Haiti’s constitutional five-year residency requirement, but more likely because worldwide reporting of Mr. Jean’s lack of qualifications and financial hanky panky, as well as internal Haitian political wrangling, made him too toxic.

However, he soon announced that he will sue to get on the ballot, providing the next episode for Haiti’s ongoing presidential election soap opera.

And the election does go on. Even though Haiti lives under military occupation with more than 11,500 uniformed U.N. personnel on the ground, both military and police; even though the earthquake destroyed most election registration records; even though more than a million people remain living in squalid tent and tarp encampments in Port au Prince and points south and would miraculously have to be re-registered in 90 days; even though the money that will be spent on this election could feed and house thousands of these Haitians in extreme need; even though the president’s term has been extended on an emergency basis, despite widespread protest; even though the largest and most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, has been excluded from running candidates and its leader, twice overthrown President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, continues to be banished from returning to Haiti; even though the “international community” has supported dictators and tyrants throughout Haiti’s history, including the murderous Duvalier family, these elections go on.

Why? There’s a term for it. Instead of holding a free and fair election, where all parties, candidates and voters openly participate, this is a “demonstration election.”

As defined by Edward Herman and Frank Brodhead in their book, “Demonstration Elections,” the purpose of a demonstration election is to substitute the form of democracy for its substance, in order to prevent real grassroots democracy. Yes, the purpose of a demonstration election is to prevent grassroots democracy.

In the case of Haiti, Fanmi Lavalas and the Lavalas movement have overwhelmingly demonstrated their popularity and influence in every election since 1990, when Aristide was elected with 67 percent of the vote. The Haitian majority loves President Aristide. He said he wanted to raise Haitians from a state of misery to “poverty with dignity,” and he practiced what he preached, building schools, parks, housing, hospitals and clinics, and a medical school, despite having his government starved of funds and loans, because he put the needs of poor Haitians ahead of the demands of international bankers (see http://haitisolidarity.net/downloads/We_Will_Not_Forget_2010.pdf).

With the Electoral Council banning candidates from Fanmi Lavalas, we are presented with an election, in the name of “democracy,” where the most popular party in the country is prevented from participating – providing the illusion of electoral “democracy” as a front for a military occupation whose goal is to repress the forces calling for the democratic sharing of power and wealth in the first place – the precise definition of a “demonstration election.”

The Haitian majority loves President Aristide because he put the needs of poor Haitians ahead of the demands of international bankers.

After the United States conquered Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in 1898, the powers that be decided to create an “informal empire” as a means of control, rather than the kind of direct colonial occupation that the European powers had used in their conquests of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The U.S. would use elections during an occupation to legitimate its preferred candidate, then use economics and other means of coercion to maintain a loosely knit system of neo-colonial dependency.

In “Demonstration Elections,” Herman and Brodhead explain the template that has been developed for these sham elections, analyzing the elections in the Dominican Republic in 1966, Viet Nam in 1967 and El Salvador in 1982. We can see this template at work for recent elections in Iraq, Afghanistan, Honduras and now Haiti, where the boycotted senatorial elections of 2009 and the upcoming presidential elections fit this pattern perfectly.

A demonstration election is a media event above all else. The media sell the election to taxpayers at home to show “progress” and justify spending the money for the occupation. They feature the election as BIG NEWS, when it’s really propaganda, a smokescreen for the harsh realities on the ground.

That is why the candidacy of Wyclef Jean is so important – it makes this Haitian election a media “event” and gives it the illusion of credibility, when its real goal is to suppress the Lavalas movement, put a democratic front on a brutal military occupation, install a friendly face who will obey the will of the “international community” investor class, and continue the neo-liberal economic direction of the current Haitian government, all the while presenting the face of “democracy” to the outside world.

So now we have 19, possibly 20, candidates lined up, most of them with a tiny or no constituency, and all willing to play ball with the forces of occupation, while Lavalas supporters demonstrate to denounce the elections as a fraud, and U.N. troops shoot up the neighborhoods where they live.

But the media will never report on this. They have “on-agenda” items – basically anything about Wyclef – and “off-agenda” items – basically everything else, but especially any analysis of the background, context and Real Purpose of the election and, in the case of Haiti, that the Lavalas movement even exists. But it does. Stay tuned.

Charlie Hinton is a member of the Haiti Action Committee (http://haitiaction.net/ and http://www.haitisolidarity.net/) and works at Inkworks Press, a worker owned and managed printing company in Berkeley. He may be reached at ch_lifewish@yahoo.com.


  1. Are you saying that we should not obey the constitution of this democratic country because of the earthquake? Preval has served his two terms, and therefore the constitution calls for elections. Furthermore, I don't see that you have actually suggested any solutions for these proposed problems. Any complaint without A solution is deemed insignificant. Haiti deserves better.

  2. it's really sad to stomach the kind of game the US, the french, and the canadian are playing with Haiti and the haitian people. As well as the UN who plays their roles as their ambassader. Anybody who is their right mind thinks that the UN, and US are in Haiti to help us out the misery that we in right now is illusional. Because they are the reason why we are in the situation that we are in the first place. But, they make it seem like; we are a bunch of uneducated, corrupted people who can't govern ourselves. while they are the one who put whoever they want to put into power with their hands tie behind their backs; and do whatever the US, france, and canada tell them to do. And any haitian government who against their wishes will face all types of threats; such as, stop of funding, uprising, riots,etc. when all these nonesense going to stop? so Haiti can have a real chance. when are those heartlessness will stop govern our beautiful country so that Haiti can see light again?

  3. if wyclief jean is not qualify to be president what this country need right is someone with experience who know how to build and run a country that country needs jobs hospital school infrastructure people in haiti are sick and tired with so-called leaders wanna be I myself is sick and tired these muisicians should stick to music specially this guy by the name michele martely what a joke what wrong with haitian people that country become a joke all that money being spend on this so- called candidates could have provide housing food for the people in haiti what a joke I sick of these nonsense

  4. don't get me wrong I like wyclief jean as a person he help a lot of people in haiti but is not qualify to be president what this country need right now is someone with a lot experience and who cares about the citizens in that country these people have been to so much pain and suffering in the hands of dictators decade of brutal dictatorship and corruption dictatorship and corruption have left that country as the poorest nation u.s has sent haiti a billion dallars over the last ten years the citizens in that country get nothing enough is enough I hope the u.s goverment pay attention these so- called leaders can't to get their hands on that money haitian people need to wake up it's time for a change these people been through so much

  5. It is obvious that Aristide won't be returning to Haiti soon. The superpowers in Haitian politics won't forgive him for being a poor student after staying 3 years in Washington , DC.
    By all means, Aristide is an ACTIVIST but not a politician. He is paying DIRELY THE PRICE for his political myopia. Il could not even see Rene PREVAL, his siamese brother as a dirty politician.
    Wyclef used a similar NORRAW-MINDED introduction on the political scene. He did not bother to peruse the Haitian Constitution.Consequently, he could not have any idea about what was waiting for him.
    From the start , he mixed up assets and liabilities in Haitian politics. Perhaps fueled by blind ambition, he failed to consolidated an alliance with Ray Joseph, A FAMILY MEMBER. Indeed , he double-crossed him to be on stage. Why did he team up to present a common front to the deleterious situation perpetuated by PREVAL?At this juncture , he could not erase the bad taste of a self-centered deal-maker that he projects.
    Where do we go from here? Were are in the mood for re-construction. Politically we can take the same bus in route to a better Haiti and multiply the grassroot efforts to take over the LEGISLATIVE BRANCH at the nearest opportunity.
    After all, Haiti a parliamentary system. PREVAL used it to get rid of ALEXIS. So the people can prevail with this legitimate and peaceful instrument to prevail.
    A lone ranger, victim of PRESIDENTIALITIS, will be dead on arrival in HAITI.

  6. Haiti need a visionary President http://www.2011haitianunites.com

    Haiti, our beloved nation, is to be built up by the mutual effort of all its citizens and residents, who give their contribution to the good of the whole country.

    We Haitians and leaders of today and tomorrow promise an oath before God to adopt godly virtues with the call to empower the nation’s citizens by mentoring, training, and discipline.

    Our mindset is to prepare our nation’s body for unity, morality, cleanliness, justice for all, equal opportunity, peace, stability, and increase by which our nation’s prosperity and equality can be protected by every citizen with the help and wisdom of God.

  7. it s apparent you haven t been to haiti, it s not the foreigners who are causing haiti s problem but rather the same old group of terrorists whos families have ruled haiti since the 40 s , look at the names of people in power or running for office you ll notice it s the same gang, they are the ones who sponsor kidnapping with the blessing of aristide ( he started kidnapping in the country in 2000 to extort money from his old friends drugs dealers) you should read about Pinochet in Chile 1972 and find out all that s going on already happened there and a number of the crooks running the country were there

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