I used to think that democracy despite its flaws was better than any other political system but the Haitian experiment, conceived by non-Haitians and imposed by force, changed my perspective. Notwithstanding the fact the experiment was built on false premises, it created a national identity crisis that practically destroyed our raison d’être, leading many Haitians to resign themselves to their fate. As the French enlightenment writer Francois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire) dramatically puts it “Those who make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
Although thousands of Haitians have been sacrificed at the altar of democracy, the old structure that many pundits hold responsible for the sorry state of Haitian society remains unchanged. Forced exiled, disappearances, extrajudicial killings, exclusion of political parties, unaccountability and, more importantly, systemic corruption have forced many to question the rationale behind the experiment, since it is next to impossible to establish any differences between the old system and democratic experiment. Nevertheless many refuse to relinquish the notion that this peculiar brand of democracy is the country’s last best chance at building a lawful and prosperous society, even though the equation doesn’t add up.
It is therefore not surprising that this segment of the population is somewhat contemptuous of the decision by the Haitian senate to dismiss Prime Minister Michelle Pierre-Louis for alleged incompetence and dereliction of duties, even though the senators acted within the confines of their constitutional prerogatives. I applaud their courageous decision because the paternalism of the architects of the experiment, disguised with veiled threats, did not deter the senators from carrying out their duties. Their daring act is fraught with adverse ramifications (donor nations may use it as an excuse to withhold development funds) but nonetheless correct, given the fact that the senators’ primary allegiance is to their respective constituencies not the dysfunctional national government.
Yet, the senators’ decision may have nothing to do with a desire to improve the socio-economic lives of their constituencies. With 10 political parties represented in the 30-member senate, the decision may have more to do with posturing Haitian-style or Machiavellian politics in anticipation of the 2010 presidential election. Quite possibly the party bosses have finally awakened to the fact that elective politic is about numbers, and Mrs. Pierre-Louis, who enjoyed unqualified support of the international community, may be the first victim of this political gamesmanship. Even with this flawed experiment, the ballot box remains a powerful tool at the disposition of the suffering masses and Haitian politicians, far from being a bunch of inept novices, are aware of this uncomplicated electoral formula. At this juncture, any politician too closely aligned with the occupation is a liability to his party in 2010, as the socio-economic conditions of the overwhelming majority of Haitians have yet to improve under the political stability equals economic prosperity formulated by the international community. Mrs. Pierre-Louis’ non-affiliation with any political party, which made the perfect conduit for the implementation of the IMF/World Bank policies, sealed her fate. Hence, should Haitian politicians be blamed for playing politics?
While the 2005 presidential election was about crimes, political stability and what not, the incoming vote would be a referendum on economic opportunities or lack thereof. That leaves the politicians with no other choice but to play the nationalist or populist card. Pié kout pran devan. From now on, the rush to privatize everything in sight, including the State University System, as prescribed by the IMF and World Bank would have to be deferred. Indeed, the first salvo in next year’s presidential election has been fired and more recriminations, acrimonies and demagoguery, which could bring Haiti to a standstill, are forthcoming. A senator, who supported the deposed Prime Minister, went so far as saying that the vote was illegal and that the fallen government should simply ignore the decision. His argument: the vote violated the senate’s procedural rules which hold that the government could not be fired during a specially convened session. The senator is either unfamiliar with Article 95-1 of the Constitution, which states “the senate is permanently in session”, or happens to be a quintessential demagogue.
As for the deposed Prime Minister, she personified the dilemma facing Haitian democracy: An instinctive contempt for compromises and lawful orders. Declaring the scheduled vote of censure against her government on October 30th a foregone conclusion, she responded to the convocation with a stinging letter to the lawmakers and declined to appear before the senate as constitutionally required. As with many of her predecessors, a place in the history book guaranteed by the prominence of the premiership or the presidency, not the welfare of the Haitian people, was Mrs. Pierre-Louis’ only concern, which is why she snubbed the lawmakers. “Leaving with her head high”, her own words, was therefore more dignified than courting her detractors and defending her record, the fundamental precepts of democratic governance.
As expected, the international community’s reaction to the firing of Mrs. Pierre-Louis was a mixture of understated relief and overstated paternalism, with the former validating the twisted notion that whatever is happening in Haiti is the result of Haitians’ propensity for self-destructive behavior and the latter reinforcing the belief that these people indeed need supervision. Since the destiny of the Haitian people has become a pawn in a tacit understanding between the oppressive international community and apathetic Haitian politicians, the politic of deception and indifference would endure.