By Max A. Joseph Jr.
Three general elections have been held in Haiti under the United Nations (UN) occupation, but not one could be seen as advancing the cause of democracy or the rule of law in the country. These recurring travesties actually expose the true nature of UN nation-building in Haiti: an all-out policy centering on re-enforcing the status quo and making social and economic reforms an almost impossible endeavor, by way of institutional demagogueries. Hence, having the right politician at the helm along with a fragmented and ineffectual parliament becomes the underlying and distorted objective of the electoral process, which naturally creates the perfect conditions for the one-man rule of Michel J. Martelly.
Days after the Haiti Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) released the official results of the Oct. 25 legislative and presidential elections, the country, as expected, erupted in a wave of protests against both the process and the decision, which many consider opaque and fraudulent. To make matters worse, Jude Celestin, one of the two candidates slated for the second round, and many others who failed to qualify, disavowed the published results and pledged to contest them, using all “legal means” at their disposal. As per the March presidential decree pertaining to the holding of these general elections, the second round must be held on Dec. 27.
As destiny would have it, Celestin happens to be the same contender who was unceremoniously bumped off the second round of the 2010 presidential election in favor of Martelly, in a controversial partial recount imposed by the international community. Martelly went on to become president defeating Myrlande Manigat, the wife of a then-former and now deceased Haitian president Lesly F. Manigat, in the second round in which 78 percent of the electorate did not bother to participate. As was the case in the last election, the political parties’ refusal to accept the CEP official results would fuel the interventionist tendencies of the international community. Most importantly haven’t these political parties willingly agreed to participate in the charade, in spite of their reservations over the CEP constitutional standing or its impartiality?
Joseph Stalin, the late Soviet leader, who reportedly said “It doesn’t matter who votes, what matters is who counts the votes,” would definitely be proud of the staying power of his demented political philosophy, which has become a powerful weapon in the arsenal of his nemesis. Nevertheless these periodic electoral exercises are consistently lauded in the foreign media and by the international community as a panacea to all the ills affecting Haiti that had condemned generations of Haitians to a life of deprivation.
At this juncture and under these circumstances, is the country’s political class responsible for the deficiencies of the Haitian state? To the extent that the political class is inept, disorganized and guided by personal gratification rather than the common good, the answer undoubtedly is yes. To the extent that its disloyal actions helped bring forth the occupation of country, the answer is also a resounding yes. However, the international community, whose patronizing and at times punitive policies helped foster a climate of unaccountability and helplessness, is primarily responsible for the present state of affairs in Haiti. Finding a way out of this unenviable and untenable situation is undoubtedly complicated but nonetheless achievable.
Many unfortunate events that occurred in Haiti in the last 25 years would not have happened had the mechanisms of functioning state were firmly in place. The now-defunct Haitian military (F.A.d’H) brutal overthrowing of the constitutional order on Sept. 30, 1991, the foreign-instigated armed insurrection against the country’s legitimately elected government in the year of its bi-centennial (2004), which brought forth its invasion and ongoing occupation, and the masses’ continuous and apocalyptic threats to lay waste to the country over fraudulent electoral results and other indignities are cases in point.
It is an open secret that powerful segments of Haiti society prefer the status quo, which is a state of near-anarchy where impunity and unaccountability are the norm rather than the exception, as they would be in any functioning state. It emboldens the bad actors, particularly those that consider intimidations and the use of force, the root cause of their pathological obsession with re-establishing the Haitian military, as the only practical solution to Haiti’s social ills. We can break the cycle and make Haiti a relevant entity once more, because learning from past mistakes is the essence of progress.
We can start by challenging and deconstructing the myths about Haiti that bring forth its occupation on the fictitious ground it constitutes “a threat to international peace and security.” Above all, we must do away with the anarchistic tendencies which seem to have evolved into a cultural peculiarity within segments of Haiti society, namely the elite, the political class and the masses. At this point and time, all Haitians should acknowledge that the winner-takes-it-all or going alone mentality, which characterizes two centuries of Haitian history, is wholly incompatible with the notion of a constituent state. It is a road to nowhere that has, through the two centuries-plus of Haiti’s existence, become a death trap for the dreams of millions of Haitians. We would need to come to terms with this inglorious past, if the nation were to break the destructive cycle of despair that entombed generations of its children. The only remedy is a Haitian solution, not foreign meddling.