By Bobb Rousseau
This op-ed proposes a form of participatory democracy where a sovereign government distinct from the central state and quasi-independent from public administration would represent each department. It rejects the unitary form of government modeled after that of France. By default, the current form of government places local governments under the control of both central and public administration.
Despite the decentralization of powers and the devolution of public services mentioned as soon as in the preamble to the constitution and reinforced by articles 66 to 88, Haitian local governments remain attached to central power and public administration. In this context, sovereignty means local governments that receive their power, not from the central state, but from their respective residents through individual constitutions. It involves local governments having their tax collection agency, offering their public services to their constituents, making their laws, and organizing their elections to form legislatures and departmental assemblies that legislate for good governance and pragmatic economic models.
The communal section, with its electoral office of the communal section (BESC), would have its place around the discussion tables concerning decisions that would affect local authorities’ functioning. It would organize the elections for the CASECs and ASECs, who would later form the municipal assemblies and appoint public officials who would help these elected officials develop action plans to identify and solve the local authority’s problems.
The commune would conduct the elections for city delegates, municipal councils, and deputies, while the departments would organize senators’ elections. The Senator who would obtain many more votes would be part of the republic’s parliament. Simultaneously, the other two would sit in their respective departments to be part of the departmental legislature.
The latter would be reinforced by municipal assemblies resulting from indirect elections and supported by the departmental and district delegates appointed by their respective departmental legislatures. Their mission, among many others, would be to negotiate with private institutions for the distribution of public services, to ensure the proper functioning of public institutions while ensuring a judicial system independent of the central power and where judges, police commissioners, and police officers assigned to local authority police stations are mostly elected officials and residents.
The central state would only be a financial backup to the departments whose laws might be different from theirs, provided that the local governments abide by the principles of respect for fundamental rights. Legislation could also be different from one department to another.
In legal or administrative conflicts, lawyers and parties would only seize the national judicial system after exhausting all avenues at the local level. This implies that all local governments would have their Court of Appeal, their Supreme or Constitutional Court, their Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Litigation, and others related thereto. In summary, all three branches of power would exist and coexist in the departments.
This plea is based on the application of Articles 66 to 88 of the 1987 constitution providing for decentralization by devolution. It removes the need for a strong state whose governance violates individual freedoms and fundamental rights. It will transform Haiti from a decentralized unitary state into one partitioned into ten territorial governments.