Article by Yves Pierre-Louis and Kim Ives.
According to Haiti’s Constitution, President Michel Martelly should pass power to his successor on Feb. 7, 2016. However, due to his foot-dragging in holding elections during his five years in power and widespread fraud in the first two rounds of on-going elections, Haiti is in a full-blown political crisis, and the scheduled Feb. 7 transfer of power from one president to the next is not going to be smooth, peaceful, or democratic.
What will happen next is anybody’s guess, but, at this writing (Jan. 19), there are two likely scenarios.
The first is that Martelly, with the support of Washington and its allies, holds a third and final round of elections now scheduled for Jan. 24 (after being postponed previously from Dec. 27 to Jan. 17). The problem is: who will vote?
The entire political opposition and most of the population cried foul after violence and fraud plagued rounds on Aug. 9 and Oct. 25. Election observers, a legal challenge from the Lavalas Family party, as well as a presidentially appointed Evaluation Commission, have confirmed there were almost universal irregularities in both elections. In the past two weeks, four of the nine members of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) have had to resign after being outed for flagrant corruption.
While some of the worst fraud occurred in legislative races, President Martelly’s chosen successor, previously obscure banana exporter Jovenel Moïse, supposedly came in first with 33% of the vote, despite a respected Brazilian exit poll indicating that he came in fourth with just 6%.
Would-be second-place presidential finisher Jude Célestin, part of a “Group of Eight” coalition (G8) with seven other leading runners-up, called the Oct. 25 election a “ridiculous farce” and, despite pressure from a high-level U.S. State Department delegation two weeks ago, has refused to participate in the second-round. He said he wants no part of “a selection aimed at the coronation of a prince.”
This would leave Mr. Moïse going to a presidential run-off unopposed. Already in the last round, only a near record-low 26% of registered voters dared or bothered to show up. A Jan. 24 turn-out would likely be even punier. Any unopposed “victory” Mr. Moïse might score that day would be very controversial and fragile.
The second scenario is that a transitional government would be formed to reorganize elections. The big questions in that case are: how will it be formed, for how long, and by whom? Furthermore, what would be its mission?
A provisional government, or “transition,” as it is commonly referred to, was first proposed over two years ago, on Sep. 29, 2013, by a national forum of popular organizations organized by the Dessalines Coordination party (KOD). The forum proposed that a 13 member “Council of State” drawn from key sectors of Haitian society form a government with a supreme court judge, similar to the arrangement which successfully carried out the 1990 “transition” from the military dictatorship of Gen. Prosper Avril to the successful election of Pres. Jean Bertrand Aristide on Dec. 16, 1990.
Today, however, Haiti is militarily occupied by the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), which enforces the agenda of Washington, Paris, and Ottawa. They are guns and bayonets behind U.S. pressure to continue on with Martelly’s discredited elections, and, should that fail, would surely try to control the formation of a transitional junta.
This is why the KOD warned during its 2013 forum that free and fair elections were not possible with either Martelly or MINUSTAH. Today, almost the entire country agrees.
As a result, in recent weeks, numerous propositions have been made, in meetings, chat groups, and radio shows, for provisional governments which would last for months or years. Almost all of the proposals include Mirlande Manigat, the former presidential candidate who lost to Martelly in 2011 and who dropped out of the 2016 race early on, perhaps to be “in reserve” for this very moment.
The U.S. Embassy has surely drawn up its Plan B for what a transition might look like, but Haitian progressive organizations are thinking and working hard to counter continued foreign meddling.
“A provisional government might have to be in place for even five years,” said a KOD leader, Henriot Dorcent. “Organizing truly free, fair, and sovereign elections is not something that can be done in a matter of months. It would have to repair all the damage done by the Martelly regime. It would have to be a provisional revolutionary government, rolling back Martelly decrees creating illegal taxes, illegal posts, illegal land seizures, destruction of state institutions, and so forth. And of course, the occupiers must be expelled. Otherwise, we will just repeat the whole fiasco again.”
The skyrocketing salaries of Martelly’s CEP members as a reward for a “job well done” has also galled the population. Their pay have gone from 124,000 gourdes ($2,137) monthly to 240,000 gourdes ($4,137). With an expense account of 150,000 gourdes ($2,585) monthly, that means a CEP member gets 390,000 gourdes ($6,722) monthly income, in a country where a 13% inflation rate and a gourde at 60 to the dollar, is driving people into deeper and deeper misery.
In the midst of this mess, some “parlémentaires mal élus” or PME (wrongly elected parliamentarians) from the Aug. 9 and Oct. 25 elections illegally swore themselves in as Haiti’s 50th Legislature on Sun., Jan. 10, a day before the constitutionally-mandated date (January’s second Monday) for parliament’s renewal. Since the “National Assembly” was carried out in violation of the Constitution’s Article 92.2 and 98.1, Haiti’s 50th Legislature will also likely lose its legitimacy and have to be reelected. In the final third round, 27 deputies (of 119 total) and six senators (of 30 total) remain to be elected.
Not surprisingly, the partial Chamber of Deputies elected a leadership of Martelly allies, which may try to push through some wildcard scenarios, like extending Martelly’s term to May 14, the date when he took office in 2011.
However, the Senate has some opposition leaders, at least nominally: Jocelerme Privert, President; Ronald Larèche, Vice President; Lucas Saint-Vil, First Secretary; Steven Benoit , Second Secretary, and Carlos Lebon, Quaestor. While they, like the G8, have called for an independent commission to verify the Aug. 9 and Oct. 25 pollings, they are compromised by the fact that they mostly occupy their seats thanks to those same elections.
The Haitian people remain mobilized to block a bogus election or a U.S.-formed neo-Martellist provisional government. Thousands took to the streets in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other towns and cities around Haiti on Jan. 18 and 19, chanting their defiance, setting up barricades, and clashing with riot police. Some windows were broken and vehicles burned.
As chaos grows, it has become clear that Washington and Haiti’s ruling class have lost control of the situation, which poses great opportunities and also great dangers to Haiti’s long suffering masses and long struggling progressive organizations and parties.