Sunday, November 28, 2010

Haiti election preview

Since my promise to “comment further.. on the roman-fleuve sans Clef that the Haitian presidential field represents” there has been a procession of pro-Lavalas voices calling for a boycott of the election, and no shortage of reasons for its boycott, including the exclusion of a party with the overwhelming support of the public and piles of allegations of election corruption including charges by at least two candidates that the party backed by the incumbent is distributing weapons to its gangs for election violence. During that time, support by likely voters inclined to support Lavalas has coalesced behind Jean Henry Céant, a former Lavalas insider and close aid to Aristide that, though not as well-known as Yvon Neptune before the race, has run a much better campaign and has more unambiguously opposed Préval and spoken in support of Lavalas. One of the voices calling for a boycott is Aristide, which may lower turnout for Céant.

You can read the US papers and find out who the small upper class supports: Préval choice Jude Célestin, who supervises Haiti's backhoe equipment; Joseph Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, who like Wyclef Jean is an anti-Aristide hip hop artist with friends in Duvalier's military; Charles Henri Baker, an industrialist that received 8% of the vote against Préval in 2006; and former senator Myrlande Hyppolite Manigat, whose husband, Leslie, received 12% for second in 2006. Célestin will be hurt by Préval's enormous unpopularity but he has name recognition from being on billboards all over the country and is the most likely beneficiary of corruption; Manigat may lead this set of candidates.

No reliable polls have been published, but with the choice of a vast majority of the voters somewhat unified and that of the elites more divided, with a clean election you could easily anticipate a margin for Céant above the 50% needed to avoid a runoff, but I'd expect a runoff of Céant and Manigat. I can't imagine Céant losing a runoff.

This is indeed an ugly election owing to Lavalas' exclusion, displaced voters, a notable percentage of voters without the required ID card, and a cholera epidemic which numerous health experts say is greatly exceeding reported numbers of victims and has led to widespread demonstrations against UN military presence. A victory for Céant offers the possibility of the restoration of Haitian autonomy, rebuilding of civic institutions which were lacking before the earthquake, and promise of legality of elections in which Fanmi Lavalas is allowed to field candidates in the future and Aristide's safety is assured after he's issued a new passport. Céant may betray these goals and I'm not going to offer prescriptions from my safe American home about boycotting or not boycotting, but holding out for justice for a wronged party apparatus may temporarily be less important than uniting behind someone who promises to restore it, even though Préval, not so long ago, made that same promise.


  1. Since Preval was unable to rig an election discretely enough, they'll have to do a retry some time after all the major candidates (except Celestin, of course) issued a joint statement calling the election a fraud. The French, US and Canadian governments haven't said anything yet, and will probably try to keep the election commission somewhat intact and say there were loose cannons that didn't do as instructed, like taking stacks of ballots by force and not distributing enough ballots elsewhere, small voter rolles, etc.

    Last night I watched Al-Jazeera softball interview an election official as if he was a law abiding citizen, not mentioning Lavalas and Ceant in the whole report, and that was Al-Jazeera (tho tens of thousands of rich Arabs live in Haiti). The ability of the foreign press to whitewash the exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas has taken a hit because their election rigging is too garish. If you can imagine Obama excluding the Republicans from the 2010 Congressional elections on an unjustified technicality and the British press reporting the elections without mentioning the exclusion, you have the New York Times' coverage and everyone else's.

    The election commission is rotten to the core and has to be disbanded and reconfigured by agreement of the candidates, and it's helpful that they made that fact too obvious. The colonial overlords should be doing everything to stop the cholera rather than trying to slip Celestin in amid the confusion.

  2. "The French, US and Canadian governments haven't said anything yet, and will probably try to keep the election commission somewhat intact.."

    well, they're going one further, with the OAS coming out first to say that the election results, whatever they are or however they are tallied, are valid, and the US State Department which spent 14 million of your money on the fraudulent election "reviewing the process." Media reports have been scaled back now that the reporters actual observations have given way to the editorial slant of all the major papers.

    I read a statement by the election commission that even though all the candidates said together that the election was a fraud, if one of them was given the win they may change their tune. Meanwhile the Miami Herald is talking up Martelly and Manigat as the major candidates (after the so-called election). So this creates a possible scenario where the election commission, perhaps under the instruction of the US, France, and Canada, hand the race to one of those two rather than Celestin and try to establish legitimacy for one of those puppets.

  3. The US State Dept is calling this rigged election "a significant step for Haiti."

    The election commission has leaked that Martelly and Manigat are leading in the tallies, and as the commission spokesman predicted, the two are warming to the possibile validity of the election.

  4. hey Weisbrot took my metaphor today:

    "Imagine holding an election in the United States with both the Democratic and Republican parties prohibited from participating."

    Now the UN is threatening to stop "supporting" Haiti if they don't crown the winner of the election farce - directed at the Preval supporters and the anti-Preval anti-election-farce demonstrators. The demonstrations are calling for a new election commission, the UN says "The UN and the international community will never accept that a legitimate Haitian president leaves under pressure from the street. It would be a coup," he said in responding to the calls for Preval's removal. "People have to stop this business of anticipating the departure of an elected president. These precedents in Haiti must stop. An elected government must be replaced by an elected government." Where to start.. an election without Aristide is a coup, the election was characterized by armed gunmen filling out stacks of ballots...