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Columns, Opinion

How to fix the 2014 law that turned Haitian political parties into stampeding gangs

By Bobb Rousseau, Diaspora Matters Columnist

The role of political parties is not only that of participating in elections, but also that of participating in the civic education of the people — while moving them towards community engagement and political literacy, participation, and militancy. Sadly, political parties do not accompany the people in their struggle to achieve a sovereign republic. The Haitian government law of January 16, 2014, relating to their training, their operation, and their financing, contributes greatly to such a failure. 

Haiti political news
Supporters of opposition political parties march in Port-au-Prince, on September 9, 2015 (AFP Photo/Hector Retamal)

The political parties are not present in the territorial collectivities a list of their regional directorates to the Ministry of Justice at the time of their request of recognition, as required by Article 17. They do not have a membership, integration, and civic education plan, although Articles 4 and 6 require that they ensure the political, civic training, and formation of their members and the population. They become bands, which only form at the time of elections, where it is almost impossible for them to find candidates to represent them at the local levels. This situation applies to small or new parties as long as it applies to more popular or older parties. 

Without any irony, Haitian law allows anyone to form a political party at the same pace as Mark Zuckerberg allows anyone to form a political group on WhatsApp. No verification of the veracity of the data listed during their formation. Each event generates the advent of new parties and with the approach of the elections, many more will succeed; all promising to want to be closer to the people to promote democracy and local politics.

However, despite the fact that they insert in their constitutive act that they will work towards decentralization, their fate remains common. Their faith is that, since they have no intention, no strategy, no financial means to, at least, begin to work towards the accomplishment of their mission, they only become a fading idea or the idea that remains on paper or in the head of its founder. 

The plurality of political parties in Haiti is a continuous proof of democracy and devotion to save the country. Nonetheless, considering that they are so disconnected to the masses and that they have no known social agenda, they only replenish the ground with ad hoc candidates and thus confuse the bejesus out of the voters. Since January 16, 2014, the formation of a political party in Haiti requires only 20 signatures (Article 8).

It is therefore not without reason that every day, a new party is born somewhere in Haiti without the Ministry of Justice, as provided for in Articles 5 and 18, verifying the authenticity of the headquarters, members and staff, the existence of regional offices which they designate and declare.

The criteria for the formation and recognition of political parties are not marred by any evaluation measure or performance matrix. In fact, according to article 9, to be a founder of a political party, the applicant need only be a Haitian of origin, have reached the age of majority, and enjoy his civil and political rights. This law makes no requirement for political parties to educate the general population in the areas of social, civic, or even militancy.

When the elections come, political parties rush to register with the CEP candidates of whom they have never heard or about whom they know nothing. To this end, they build themselves a labyrinth to find valid candidates to represent them at the local levels. As a result, they rank up a roster of incompetent candidates who do not raise them to the hype to booster them to participate in the construction of the rule of law and the management of public affairs (Article 6 (g)). Let us also note that these candidates from the unknown and without political culture do not lend any allegiance to political parties, which they will leave to go and have their own once elected. 

An amendment to this law is necessary to limit recognition to five years or to expire after each specific election. To obtain their recognition, political parties will be required to present an action plan for civic education and a recovery project for local development. These plans will be submitted to the Ministry of Justice who, together with the Ministry of Social Affairs, will establish measures of success to assess the performance of political parties in each community where they have designated as their head office and regional directorates.

To renew their recognition and / or to receive public funding, political parties must demonstrate, in addition to having won elective positions (Article 37) that they have achieved at least 60% of their social objectives. They must also submit to the Ministry of Finance reports of any monetary transactions they have carried out as part of their campaigns. All their financial activities and amounts received in funding, donations, or contributions will be recorded and accounted for in their accounting books as required by Article 44. They will not be allowed to register their candidates in the next elections if they do not comply with the requirements of the law or if they do not have their mark on a social change program in the areas where they operate.


Bobb Rousseau

Bobb Rousseau

Bobb Rousseau holds a Ph.D. in Administration and Public Policy with specializations in Public Law and Managing Local Government. Dr. Rousseau firmly believes that the Haitian diaspora in the United States is at a prime stage to build an attractive political force that can shift U.S. immigration, diplomacy, and humanitarian aid to Haiti and to advance the Haitian agenda around the world.
Bobb Rousseau
Oct. 13, 2020

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