Under the Radar

The Anatomy of Instability

A protester runs past a burning car during a protest against President Michel Martelly's government to demand the cancellation of the Jan. 24, runoff elections, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. Disputed election results have brought paralyzing street protests and many broad accusations of electoral fraud from civil society and opposition groups. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery

A protester runs past a burning car during a protest against President Michel Martelly’s government to demand the cancellation of the Jan. 24, runoff elections, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. Disputed election results have brought paralyzing street protests and many broad accusations of electoral fraud from civil society and opposition groups. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery

By Max A. Joseph Jr.

No one can accuse Haitian politicians of being inconsistent in their approach to fomenting instability in the country they profess to love, be they those in power or the ones vying for power. Collectively they thrive on brinkmanship and loath following any guidelines, particularly those of Haiti’s constitution. The adage of “a constitution being a piece of paper, while a bayonet is made of iron” was the reason behind the succession of military men that ruled Haiti from its inception on January 1, 1804 until the ascent of Cincinnatus Leconte to the presidency in August of 1911. Now well into the third century of Haiti’s existence, it is fair to assume that the country’s politicians are not yet ready or willing to abandon their peculiar attraction with anarchy.

All throughout the course of Michel Martelly’s presidency, utter contempt for the 1987 constitution was tolerated or even encouraged by practically every sector of Haiti society. The entire administrative structure of the country fell under direct control of the executive, while a truncated and dysfunctional legislature basked in impotence. All of a sudden almost everyone is finding faults with the arrangement. Some are even advocating that a government of transition, which would be illegal under the constitution, be formed to replace that of Michel Martelly who, by law, must cede power to an elected successor on February 7, 2016.

As of this writing, the second round of Haiti’s highly questionable presidential election will be held on the 24th of January as decreed by Michel Martelly, the country’s president. Most importantly, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) president Pierre-Louis Opont, whom the aggrieved candidate Jude Célestin insisted must be fired as condition for his participation, will also be in charge of organizing it. Bear in mind the international community, which is bankrolling and controlling the process, is resolute in its insistence that the vote be held, given that a postponement will derail the constitutionally mandated transfer of power scheduled for Feb. 7. Could the whole thing have been averted and what would the judgment of history be?

Jude Celestin, the LAPEH party presidential candidate, speaks on a mobile phone at his office in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. Celestin, a 53-year-old engineer, said he has such deep concerns about vote-rigging and a lack of transparency by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council that he is boycotting a Jan. 24 presidential runoff. His party will not send any monitors to polling stations. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Jude Celestin, the LAPEH party presidential candidate, speaks on a mobile phone at his office in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. Celestin, a 53-year-old engineer, said he has such deep concerns about vote-rigging and a lack of transparency by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council that he is boycotting a Jan. 24 presidential runoff. His party will not send any monitors to polling stations. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Jude Célestin, one of the two top vote-getters in the Oct. 25 presidential election, as per the official results of the CEP, certainly could explain or justify his decision to forfeit his participation in the second round. Indeed he had, to a certain extent, and many ordinary Haitians no doubt understand or support his decision. A commission appointed by the Haitian government to verify the integrity of the process did find widespread irregularities, some say intended electoral fraud, in the first round of the presidential election. The judgment of history however may not be so accommodating to Célestin’s cause because a greater than personal consideration is at stake at this stage, to be precise the future of Haiti itself, which logic dictates is a compelling reason for him to reconsider.

Actually many Haitian politicians, Célestin included, are banking on the U.S and the OAS (Organization of the American States) to produce a sequel of their 2011 illegal intrusion in Haiti’s electoral process, which saw the-then government-backed candidate, ironically Jude Célestin, unceremoniously bumped off the second round of that year’s presidential election in favor of Michel J. Martelly. An ostensibly good trooper, who back then did not want his boss and mentor, René Préval, to incur the wrath of the international community, Célestin dutifully acquiesced to the bully decision and faded into obscurity.

As expected the Célestin who re-emerges in last year’s presidential election in no way resembles the pliant and untested political novice that chose loyalty over personal glory. However, his ill-advised membership in the G-8 alliance is the clearest indication that he fails to mature in the interim. As one of the two top vote-getters in the Oct. 25 vote, the man had the political leverage that he could have used to extract concessions from the CEP and, by extension, the international community while keeping open a channel of communication with the angry contenders who did not make the cut. Sadly, he chose the politics of personal animosities and blatantly ignored the ramifications.

A mature politician would have understood that the train would leave the station with or without him, seeing that the voices that matter in occupied-Haiti, i.e. the US, the UN and the OAS, thanks to the treasonous actions of the Gourgues, Arpaids, Phillipes and others in 2004, had officially endorsed the questionable results of the Oct. 25 vote. His formal dalliance with a group whose political philosophy and core membership are considered “unacceptable risks” to the interests of the international community may have doomed Célestin’s chance of ever making it to the presidency.

The fundamental nature of great power politics is expediency, meaning national and security interests of the hegemon supersede all established precedents and moral precepts. Regrettably, Haitian politicians have remained oblivious of this reality despite the countless unfortunate events that befell Haiti throughout its storied history. Having invested billions of dollars and its credibility in the occupation of Haiti, the international community is not about to lessen its iron-grip on the country or let a motley group of rabble-rousers derail its plan. Grandstanding is not a substitute to the existing political reality. Haiti and its people deserve better than the immature bunch that claims to represent their interests or speak on their behalf.

Jan. 20, 2016

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