Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part II

h3. Source: “Haiti Election page of the International Coalition of Independent Observers (ICIO)”:http://www.quixote.org/haiti/elections/

This thorough, detailed report is an excellent source of information about the 2000 elections. One caveat: The website states that “The ICIO observed the local and legislative elections in Haiti on May 21, 2000 as the only group of observers completely independent from government structures.” Though independent, ICIO’s point of view should be considered while reading this, as the lead member of the coalition appears to be Haiti Reborn, a group whose stated mission is to “advocate for a more just US foreign policy” in Haiti. Still, the report is written by authors who are not affiliated with a particular government, and so it should be read in hopes of balancing other government-based reports. To my eyes, the report is extensively researched and quite willing to show all perspectives, warts and all.

The ICIO report contains a thorough analysis of the 2000 election, its methods and processes, including:

* The registration process and its flaws
* The role of International Agencies
* Reasons for the election postponements
* US pressure tactics to set the date of the elections
* The actual elections and irregularities noted
* National and International political fallout

Voter registration was apparently a major issue in Haiti’s 2000 Elections. The Bureaus of Inscription (BI) were allotted only a month in which to register an estimated 4.2 million voters. In addition to the enormous time pressure, the BI were given photographic equipment that was difficult to operate, and there were claims that not enough registration materials had been distributed. Training, pay, and selection of BI staff were also serious issues, as were corruption and the lack of computerized Central Data Processing.

The ICIO report while unflinchingly recognizing the serious weaknesses in the democratic process, also points out the hopeful and positive sides of the 2000 elections.

When the elections were held on the 21st of May (in most of the country), the ICIO report states that the elections “were declared by all international and national observers to be legitimate and acceptably free and fair.” The report also states that “minor irregularities were noted…,” most of which seem to be logistical. A section of personal reflections on the elections that day describes Haitians patiently and determinedly participating in an outdoors voting bureau.

The day after the election, opposition groups began to question the results. The OAS published a letter in the Haitian press criticizing the CEP (the provisional electoral council, responsible for certifying election results). The CEP asserted that the results were valid, but then two members affiliated with the opposition party resigned. The head of the CEP fled the country. Nonetheless, President Preval published the results and scheduled runoff elections for July 7th.

The ICIO report agrees that the OAS criticisms of the election results were valid. “According to Article 64 of the electoral law, to be elected as a senator in the first round of elections requires an absolute majority of votes. In the counting done by the CEP in May 2000, only the top four candidates in each contest were counted, and based on these numbers the CEP determined whether or not a candidate for senate had received an absolute majority.” Nevertheless, the CEP believed it had used proper methodology under the circumstances and stood by the results, issuing a Statement of Clarification to that effect on June 30, 2000.

The US took a hard-line stance, claiming that the CEP was not a credible body, that the run-off elections in July were highly disputed, and that given the persistent disagreement between the opposition coalition and Aristide’s _Fanmi Lavalas_ party, the US would withhold further official aid and assistance.

The OAS orchestrated several meetings between _Fanmi Lavalas_ and the _Convergence Democratique_, as the opposition coalition had come to be known. There was actually some agreement between the two parties and a willingness to negotiate, but ultimately talks broke down. (See links to the original OAS reports in Part IV.)

The ICIO report offers this asessment of “The Larger Picture” of democratic progress in Haiti from James Deroser, a deputy from Cap-Haitian:

bq. “‘To understand what is going on now you have to know history,’ explained Deroser. In his opinion, the entire history of Haitian politics is clan politics. The situation has always been one where 80% of the land and production are in the hands of a tiny minority, and the entire society sits on a base of exploitation. ‘Those with privilege,’ Deroser says, ‘have never looked well upon the popular movement for democracy.’

bq. “This impression is similar to the opinions articulated in areas of Haiti beyond the capital. ‘The opposition has no popular base, but they do have support from the United States,’ Deroser explained. This opinion says that the richest members of Haitian society have ties to Republicans in the United States. In terms of the rest of the Haitian population, over 80% are illiterate, but it is important to note that they are not stupid. ‘They understand what is happening,’ Deroser said, ‘and Jean-Bertrand Aristide is their leader. If elections were held tomorrow the population would vote for one party, Fanmi Lavalas.'”

Though by this time the international community had removed its observers and refused to offer further financial or technical assistance, the CEP went ahead with presidential and partial senatorial elections in November.

To continue reading part II, click the link…

The ICIO was on hand with 26 volunteers to observe the November 26th elections, along with four observers from Caricom and 6,000 from the national peasant group KOZEPEP. The rest of the international community stayed at home. ICIO reported voter turnout from various sources at about 60%, with a few minor irregularities and two major irregularities in the voting places they were able to observe. The CEP certified the elections three days later, declaring Jean-Bertrand Aristide the new president.

As the Convergence continued to dispute the elections (as they had even before they were held), the US continued to pressure Haiti for reforms. US Congressmen Gilman, Helms, and Goss issued a statement calling Haiti’s elections “a sham.” ICIO notes that no support or sources were cited in the statement.

The conclusion section of the ICIO argues that a strong will for democracy has taken root in Haiti, and needs to be encouraged by the international community.

Appendices to the ICIO report include a chronology of events, pre- and post-election reports, and the CEP’s statement of clarification concerning the May 21 election methodology. I encourage everyone to actually read the CEP’s statement, as at the very least it demonstrates some considered thought went into the certification of the election results. When people claim the elections of May 21, 2000 were “flawed,” this is what they’re arguing against.

Finally, for a further perspective on the American mindset, read the last appendix, the statement released by US Congressmen Gilman, Helms, and Goss.

h3. Source: “Embassy of Haiti – The Electoral Process”:http://www.haiti.org/Whatsnew/elct.htm

A statement dated February 17, 2003 notes:

bq. The only institutional flaw identified by the Organization of American States (OAS) in Haiti�s May 21, 2000 legislative elections was the interpretation of the electoral law adopted by the electoral council to calculate the percentage of votes obtained by 8 senatorial candidates.�Nowhere in its electoral report does the OAS suggest that the entire election involving 29,500 candidates vying for close to 7,500 seats be redone, or that there was widespread fraud or misconduct that would call the election into question.�Indeed, the elections were heralded as a �great success for the Haitian population.��One observer, U.S. Congressman William Delahunt said, �the strengths so far have been the lack of violence, the huge level of participation, [estimated at 60%], and the relaxed atmosphere.��The claim today that the May 2000 elections were �flawed� or involved �fraud� obscures the small number of contested elections and the methodological issue at controversy.�To the great detriment of the Haitian people, the �crisis� that has developed between the May 21 elections and now has been allowed to spiral beyond the scope of the OAS electoral report, become a platform to block the democratic will of the majority of Haitian voters and is the pretext for preventing the flow of up to $500 million in development loans and assistance to Haiti.

The page then continues by outlining the steps Aristide has taken to resolve the controversy, including securing the resignations of the senators whose elections were disputed and naming a new electoral council.