Popular candidates kept off ballot in Haiti

Ever since 1990 when the people of Haiti turned an election into a movement and voted en masse for Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the Haitian bourgeoisie and its imperialist backers have been leery of elections.

They have used military coups to reverse the results of elections they didn’t like. They have also excluded popular parties from the ballot to keep them from winning. This is happening again right now.

Earlier this year, in partial senate elections, the candidates of Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas, were disallowed by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) on spurious grounds. FL called for a boycott, which was a resounding success. The National Council of Electoral Observation (CNO) estimated that only 2 to 3 percent of eligible voters participated.

Additional elections are now scheduled for February 2010, and the CEP has been even more outrageous. It has disqualified not only FL, Haiti’s largest party, but 16 other parties that couldn’t get their documents together in the seven days the CEP gave them. Haiti’s Popular National Party (PPN), headed by Ben Dupuy, has refused to participate in these elections so as not to “back this trickery.” (Haïtí-Progrès, Dec. 2-8)

Aristide is in exile in South Africa. In order to meet the strict deadline the CEP had imposed, he sent his appointment of Dr. Maryse Narcisse as FL’s electoral representative via the package delivery service DHL. Gaillot Dorsinvil, chair of the CEP, rejected it, saying, “It didn’t have a stamp or envelope.” (Haïtí-Liberté, Dec. 2-8)

Aristide then gave an interview to a Haitian radio station for the first time in five years. He told Radio Solidarité, “It was me who wrote the mandate, signed the mandate and sent the mandate.” He called for “honest, fair and free elections” and said he would personally come before the CEP if the Haitian government would give him travel documents.

Dorsinvil’s reply was that the CEP’s decision was final.

The CNO said this was “outside of all acceptable public justification.” The Assembly of Organizations for Change (ROC), a coalition of neighborhood groups and cooperatives, called for massive demonstrations and threatened a boycott of the elections unless the CEP backed down.

The imperialists—the United States, Canada and France—have had to deal with the election of other candidates supported by the masses, like Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and, recently, José Mujica, the co-founder of the Tupamaros, in Uruguay.

When money doesn’t elect the candidate they want, the imperialists have another favorite tactic—coups. Aristide was first removed by the army in 1991. After years of struggle and thousands of deaths, he returned, abolished the army and was constitutionally succeeded as president by René Préval. At the end of Préval’s term, in 2000, Aristide was again elected president by a bigger margin than his first victory. Fanmi Lavalas also swept the parliamentary elections.

Without an army, it took longer for reactionaries in Haiti, politically and financially backed by the U.S., to organize a coup. After a long series of commando raids and reactionary demonstrations, however, President Aristide was hustled onto a U.S. transport plane the night of Feb. 29, 2004, and flown to the Central African Republic.

Honduran soldiers followed the same script when they flew President Manuel Zelaya to Costa Rica this past June.

U.S. troops occupied Haiti for the third time in 2004, with a bit of help from France and Canada. (It was the first time French troops had been in Haiti since 1804, when an anti-colonial revolution kicked them out and set up the first Black republic.) The occupiers got a U.N. “stabilization” fig leaf called MINUSTAH in place three months later. The U.N. has occupied Haiti ever since.

After some interim regimes, René Préval won the presidential election in Haiti in 2006, running on the Lespwa (“Hope”) slate. FL didn’t field a candidate but strongly backed Lespwa.

The imperialists have additional reasons for controlling Haiti, besides overcoming its stubborn resistance. Haiti has significant deposits of gold, silver, bauxite and copper, whose development is hindered by political instability and crumbling infrastructure.

Even though Haiti is a country where hunger is rampant, the economy depends on remittances from abroad. Where protests are often met with deadly force from the U.N. occupying troops, the Haitian people have not abandoned their struggle and hope for democracy and freedom.

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