by Max A. Joseph Jr.

Haiti's President Martelly and PM Lamothe look out at supporters in Port-au-Prince

Practically everybody knows that politics is not an exact science, meaning similar events, and policies generally do not produce identical results. Nevertheless, Haitian politicians continue to ignore this straightforward reality which is easily understood by anyone with an ounce of common sense.

Guided by the “winner takes all” code of conduct — the foundation of Haiti’s political system for two centuries — these politicians seem incapable of accepting that the best approach to advancing their interests and those of the constituencies they claim to represent, is to talk to their adversary. Hence, it certainly did not surprise anyone that the opposition (Lavalas and other lesser entities) has called for a boycott of the long overdue and often-postponed legislative elections, which the government maintains will be held this October.

Is this “call to boycott” some kind of cultural peculiarity or a fatal attraction with irrationality?

A look at the 2000 legislative election

One could not come close to understanding Haiti’s actual political reality without going back to the 2000 legislative election, which the international community refused to certify as free and fair. This seminal event led to a concerted isolation of the then-Lavalas government and its forced ouster by French and U.S. forces on February 29, 2004, is being replayed with the same antagonists performing reversing roles.

Strangely enough, today’s opposition expects the same outcome on the twisted belief that boycotting the elections would de-legitimize the government and nudge the international community into action on their behalf.

Even conspiracy theorists would have a hard time making sense out of this logic, given that the international community abhors the opposition’s populist philosophy and unreservedly supports the Martelly-Lamothe government. Hence, the most likely outcome of a boycott would be a rubberstamp legislature, fully under the control of the executive branch and a return to the” winner takes all” mentality that defined Haitian politics for two centuries.

Is this what the opposition wants?

One can only hope that the opposition is playing a game of brinkmanship and on Election Day every Haitian will get a chance to overhaul the political landscape and usher a new beginning that restores confidence in our ability.

Haitians in Port-au-Prince vote in the country's presidential runoff on March 20, 2011
Haitians in Port-au-Prince vote in the country’s presidential runoff on March 20, 2011

Populism, as a political philosophy, makes sense in terms of electoral strategy but should not be used as an instrument for uncompromising political stances. Haiti’s reality may seem sui generis to detractors but is not a hopeless case of dysfunction and cultural peculiarity, seeing that extreme political divergences are the norm in any constituent state. It is therefore not beyond the realm of impossibility for Haitians to find a workable compromise that lays the groundwork for a stable and prosperous Haiti. There is however one caveat: the international community must abandon its condescending attitude and let Haitians decide their own future.

Indeed only the Haitianization of the Haitian problem would bring an acceptable and lasting solution to the crisis. Outside interferences to correct local “peculiarities” or “deficiencies” only foster disorder, regardless of the righteousness of the cause. To those who would bring up the two centuries of the country’s existence as a wasted opportunity that must not be allowed to be repeated, I can only say that the international community was complicit in our failure.

Through embargoes, extortions, economic warfare, military invasions, and inside help from impenitent traitors, Haiti was mercilessly quarantined and disconnected from the rest of the world by a consortium of great powers that included Britain, France, Germany, Spain and the U.S. Deliberately excluded from the Industrial Revolution, Haiti is now paying the price for letting this transformational period in human history pass it by. It is therefore disingenuous for anyone, particularly the western media, to maintain and propagate that local idiosyncrasies are solely responsible for the present state of affairs in Haiti. There is plenty of blame to pass around.

Moving ahead

Governing is not for the faint-hearted; a known fact that explains why history is replete with well-meaning politicians who failed miserably simply because they did not have the necessary mental toughness for effective governance.

Moving ahead with the scheduled elections would unquestionably be the right decision in Haiti where political parties are as numerous as the people they wish to lead and demagoguery is a politician’s favorite pastime. Standing in the way of inevitability, as the opposition is doing, could only prolong the agony of the Haitian people by providing the international community the rationale for extending its illegal occupation of the country.

In the context of what actually went on in Haiti under the political system of 2004,  pragmatism must take precedence over populism and narrow interests. The decade-long occupation is an indictment of the political class, which the international community considers hopelessly incompetent, corrupt and incapable of running a country. Yet, the political class remains oblivious to this notion that is widely accepted as the basis for the concept of “failed state.” Though the assessment may be self-serving, it offers Haitians an opportunity to regenerate the Haitian spirit which centered on dogmatic contempt for injustice and inalienable right to self-determination.

Haiti must not lose its raison d’être, as long as injustice and imperial attitude remain the foundation of international relations. We simply cannot let its future in the hands of politicians who refuse to see the larger picture: the need to end occupation.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply