The Guardian 15 June, 2005

Haitian regime disenfranchise poor

Tim Pelzer

With five months to go before elections are held in Haiti, its Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is planning to disenfranchise many voters by refusing to register residents in poorer neighbourhoods.

CEP President Max Mathurin announced that the council will not set up voter registration offices in the so-called "popular neighbourhoods" through the country — hotbeds of support for the Lavalas Party of deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide — where much of the population resides. Mathurin provided no justification for the decision except to say that it will remain in force "until the situation changes". Only 56,000 people have been registered so far out of 4.4 million eligible to vote. The CEP intends to end its voter registration drive on July 31.

Brian Concannon Jr of the Port-au-Prince-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti told the People’s Weekly World, "The whole point of both the repression [against Lavalas supporters] and the limited registration facilities is to prevent the Lavalas Party from campaigning and its supporters from voting." He added, "It is important to understand that the opposition to Lavalas, in electoral terms, has never existed. There are no parties that have demonstrated an ability to attract any votes or to effectively compete with Lavalas."

A human rights monitor based in Haiti, who asked that her name not be mentioned, agreed with Concannon that the CEP’s unwillingness to register voters in poor neighbourhoods "should be seen as a deliberate attempt to exclude opponents of the current regime from voting". However, "The question is not simply one of whether voting bureaus will be installed in popular neighbourhoods, or of whether on one or two days voting can happen.

"The climate of insecurity and frequent violations of the rights of residents of these areas by the interim authorities makes it impossible for anyone to organise", she said. "Most people are literally struggling to live — death from starvation is on the rise in all of the popular neighbourhoods, violence is paralysing everything, no one can function. Residents of popular neighbourhoods, and the population at large, cannot begin to discuss elections given the current situation in the country."

Anthony Fenton, a Canadian-based journalist and analyst, said, "Many of the same organisations that helped engineer the sham elections in Afghanistan and Iraq are hard at work in Haiti. In fact, the very same organisations that helped destabilise the Lavalas government, such as the International Republican Institute, and others who receive US Agency for International Development and Canadian Inter­national Development Agency money, are working with other pioneers of US-led ‘democracy enhancement’ projects to ensure a certain outcome.

"When you ‘enhance’ a democracy by destabilising it, it follows logically that you should oversee ‘free and fair’ elections by excluding the majority of Haitian voters."

In related news, a Canadian government-funded report by consultant Ron Gould obtained by the People’s Weekly World is critical of the CEP’s performance. Gould writes, "Overall, there is a fragmented, piecemeal approach to the carrying out the Haitian election process, a process which only functions smoothly if it is an integrated continuum." He concludes, "The CEP is not an electoral management decision-making body, but a group of nine individuals, each with separated areas of responsibility and internal conflicts, which negatively affects effective management and decision making."

Haiti’s US-installed government plans to hold local, legislative and presidential elections in November and December, although the CEP stated recently that these dates might be changed. Lavalas, the nation’s largest party, refuses to take part in the elections because of the continuing state-led repression directed against it.

People’s Weekly World, Communist Party, USA

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