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26266: Esser: (news) Major party being iced out in Haiti elections (fwd)
From: D. E s s e r <firstname.lastname@example.org>
People's Weekly Word Newspaper
September 15, 2005
Major party being iced out in Haiti elections
by Tim Pelzer
With the first round of elections set to begin in about eight weeks,
Haiti is still not ready to hold free and fair multiparty elections.
More than half of Haiti’s population remains unregistered to vote.
Further, the country’s largest political party, Famni Lavalas,
remains unofficially banned. Local, regional, national and
presidential elections are scheduled for Nov. 20, with a runoff on
Jan. 3 if needed.
The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) reported Sept. 1 that it has
only registered 2.2 million out of 4.5 million eligible voters. As a
result, the council announced that registration will likely be
extended beyond the Sept. 15 registration deadline. However, Brian D.
Concannon Jr., director of the Oregon-based Institute for Justice and
Democracy in Haiti, charged, “Registration is disproportionately
among voters that might support the government. For example, in late
July there were three registration offices in upscale Petionville,
which supports the government, none in [the poorer] Cite Soleil or
the entire Central Plateau Department. There will be a maximum of 427
centers, which isn’t enough in a country where most people don’t have
cars. Many people will have more than a day’s walk to register.”
The United Nations, which is sponsoring the elections, says that 45
political parties will take part. “We believe in an inclusive
electoral process because it confers a profound legitimacy,” said UN
Mission head Juan Gabriel Valdes. However, the Lavalas party says
that the government is blocking its participation in the elections.
“This government has carried out a violent repression of Lavalas with
the goal of eliminating it as a viable party,” said Lavalas leader
Moïse Jean Charles. He points out that of the election commission’s
nine members, seven are members of the anti-Lavalas Group of 184, and
two are nonaligned. “Over 45 percent of Lavalas leaders have been
either imprisoned, driven into hiding or killed. How can anyone
support an election under these conditions?” he asked.
As another illustration of the political climate, Haitian police
recently arrested Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a high-profile Lavalas
activist. While police searched Jean-Juste’s presbytery Sept. 9, they
also arrested two journalists covering their actions. Kevin Pina, a
U.S. filmmaker, and Jean Ristil, a Haitian journalist, were jailed
for two days until the Haitian authorities yielded to domestic and
international calls for their release.
Lavalas spokespersons said that the party will only participate in
the elections if the government and CEP resigns, exiles are allowed
to return, political prisoners are freed, police raids against poor
neighborhoods cease and all armed groups are disarmed.
Critics charge that the government’s repression of Lavalas is part of
a broader plan to appease world opinion while keeping Lavalas out of
power. Concannon calls the election plan a process of “electoral
cleansing” in which the U.S., Canada, France, the UN and the Haitian
government want to have elections with as much participation as
possible, “as long as there is no risk that the voters will make the
wrong choice (again),” added Concannon, alluding to Haiti’s three
previous national elections where voters chose Lavalas.
“They need to have elections that satisfy lightly informed world
public opinion,” Concannon said. “They are working on both the supply
and demand ends, putting good candidates in jail, while getting a
skewed voter pool.”
In related news, four former Lavalas parliamentarians registered
Lavalas with the CEP on Aug. 8 for the upcoming elections. The
party’s exiled leadership quickly condemned the registration. The
Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network’s Marguerite Laurence stated,
“Three [of the] parliamentarians who registered Lavalas were in jail
at some point and, unlike the rest [other jailed Lavalas leaders],
were released. The speculation is that they made a deal amenable to
the powers that be.” A human rights monitor in Haiti said
anonymously, “I would be prepared for some surprises, including the
possibility of a U.S.-supported ‘Lavalas’ candidate. If they did
this, they would finish off much of what is left of the movement
[Lavalas] and still have control over the government.”
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