By Bobb Rousseau | Columnist
The public does not trust the government organizing elections, especially registration procedures and vote tabulation practices. This lack of confidence will increase as long as the powers to manage electoral registers, appoint members of the Electoral Council, finance elections, compile ballots, and publish results remain concentrated in the hands of the Executive.
Here are five recommendations, among many others, to ensure the integrity of the Haitian electoral system.
1. Eliminate the Electoral Council from its outlying entities: This institution is a handicap to the democratization of the electoral process and a symbol of violation of freedom of expression. It encourages electoral fraud for the benefit of the political party in power. Instead, parliament will validate or deny the results coming from local election organizations. In the event of gridlock at the parliament level and for any alleged violation of electoral forms or procedures, the Constitutional Council or the Court of Cassation will act to achieve the principle of the authority of all matters judged.
2. Allow local electoral registers instead of a national electoral register: Haiti’s central government must not manage or have the rights of control or verification of the systems of manufacturing and delivering identity cards. We must transfer this function to local authorities through their respective municipal agency for the organization of elections. These latter entities, which will comprise members of civil society, will manage proprietary systems to provide their respective residents with the credentials they need to vote. They will share their electoral list with the relevant departmental agency, never with the government.
3. Create autonomous local agencies for organizing elections with outlying tabulation centers: Having asingle date or unannounced dates chosen by the Executive to organize the elections for the entire country facilitates electoral fraud and vote manipulation. The authority to establish an electoral calendar for the departments and their direct reporting communes must rest with the autonomous local agencies. Communal taxes will finance the integrity of the electoral system to ensure that the government and the international community do not finance elections. This will avoid parliamentary caducity executive officers’ presidential appointments at the heads of municipal councils. This will also facilitate the harmonization of the calendar of presidential elections that the local agencies will organize. It will reduce, even eliminate, the influence of the government at the time of ballot tabulations.
4. Establish a legal status for local authorities: Instead of an electoral decree governing the entire territory, the parliament should enact a national electoral law. Decrees violate the right of local authorities. It gives the government full power to establish the eligibility criteria for each level and exclude a class of citizens involved in their community’s socio-economic and political development. Each entity will have its own electoral legislation under the national law to establish the eligibility criteria according to their needs or sustainable development plans.
5. Creation of training booths for political literacy: Voters do not sell their votes because they are hungry, but rather because they are politically illiterate. They do not know the power of their vote and the impact of their decision to vote or not to vote. The autonomous local agencies must not allow political parties that do not submit a political literacy plan to register their candidates. Political parties must educate voters and keep them abreast of government programs, public policy, and citizen engagement. This plan must include political communication strategies, evaluation criteria, and measures of success. Grassroots associations whose funding will come from local governments will support the political parties.
These five points would reduce fraud, manipulation, and violence in our electoral system. It would ensure transparency of the process, control international interference, encourage civil society participation, and advocate for a better appropriation of municipal taxes.