By Ed Gehy
On Aug. 9, Haiti organized its long overdue legislative elections to seat its next Congress. Several voting stations in the capital were forced to close because of incidents of violence. As a result, many constituents did not get the chance to cast their votes.
A number of Haitian political parties have denounced the elections as “organized fraud.” Parties including, Fusion, Fanmi Lavalas and Ayisyen Pou Ayiti, asked CEP – the temporary electoral council to reevaluate the election, and right the wrongs that have been committed.
While others, such as Pitit Desalin, requested the elections be annulled. Amid all these protests, some even went as far as calling for the president of the CEP, Pierre- Louis Opont to be arrested, insinuating he was deliberately deceiving the population acting on behalf of the current administration.
As I am writing these lines, I would have loved to tell you the way in which the elections took place in Haiti was a success; I would have loved to tell you these alleged frauds and irregularities that occurred were just lessons learned and that Haiti is an exemplary country when it comes to organizing the affairs of the state. However, the sad reality is you and I both know this is only imaginary.
Many may argue that voter fraud can happen anywhere, not just in Haiti.
We would certainly agree with that view. Admittedly, Haiti is not alone when it comes to elections irregularities. For example, we remember the 2000 United States Gore vs. Bush presidential election. Although Gore won the popular vote, there was a discrepancy over whether or not he had won enough electoral votes to name him the winner. A recount was issued, however a deadline was imposed. Democrats wanted a recount regardless of how long it took, while Republicans wanted the opposite. America was divided. After some legal bickering in the courts, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore decided it was time to accept defeat, even though some legal experts believed he was still able to continue that fight in the courts. He made that decision for the greater good, so to speak.
We understand there is no such thing as a monolithic nation. Not everyone will share the same level of compatibility or homogeneity on the same issues in a country, no matter what. We understand people normally vary in their views, wants, beliefs, values, etc. After all, this is part of the human experience. It is in that sense we say that Haiti is not alone. However, that does not negate the fact that it should come a time when we should be able to work through our problems and our differences in order to bring about solutions to them.
Everything about the country poses a dichotomy. On one hand, many of the problems the country is faced with are for the most part easy to predict in the sense that they have occurred before many times over. On the other, people can’t help but ask how long it will be before these repeated problems are no more.
Haitians may take great pride in singing the national anthem, but as long as the country is occupied by foreign forces, and continues to rely on foreign aid to function, we cannot talk about national sovereignty.
If we were to go back in time and ask ourselves this very simple question: “Is Haiti able to organize an election?” The sad truth would have to be no.
Since the departure of the Duvalier regime in 1986, the country has had only one uncontested election; that of Jean Bertrand Aristide in 1990. Besides that, all other elections, presidential or otherwise, have been contested in one way or another.
What took place on Aug. 9 is not an isolated incident. This is a systemic problem and evidence of how weak and incompetent the state apparatus is. This also validates the common mindset about the mistrust of the Haitian people toward its so-called leaders. It’s one thing if these shams occurred as a result of logistic or technical problems. It’s another when they are due to ill prepared election personnel, coupled with a misguided and misinformed populace.
This is proof that what Haiti needs is not only physical infrastructure, but human infrastructure as well. This line of thinking supports the views of those who caucus against foreign aid. Perhaps it may not be an exaggeration after all to suggest the country would be better off without foreign assistance all together. And if we must accept foreign aid, it would be wiser for such funds to be exclusively spent on educating the masses.
Despite all these alleged misrepresentations, it is likely the elections will be accepted as legitimate. In fact, international observers and CARICOM have already extended their support of the elections. Regardless of the international community’s position, the best course of action should be through a consensus which satisfies all parties. After all, these elected officials, once they take office will be faced with an uphill battle from the day they take the oath to the day they leave office. And that cycle of political instability will continue all over again.
While we can’t say with absolute certainty how the next few weeks will unfold, we do know one thing for sure: If all these demonstrations that took place in the last few weeks are any indication, this is the prelude of what to expect for the upcoming presidential elections next year.
We all long for the day when the country is able to organize its elections in such a way that people can go to the polls to cast their votes with confidence and invariably accept the results that follow. When that happens, that will be a sure sign Haiti is in sync with other nations.