Many are skeptical of Haiti election listen12/03/10 Kate Bradshaw
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The London Telegraph reported today that between two and three thousand Haitians protested the results of Sundayâ€™s presidential election in the capitol of Port Au Prince. Some of the twelve presidential candidates were reportedly among the protestors. A United Nations peacekeeping official has meanwhile warned that the international community would pull its support from the country if it did not accept the results of the election. Preliminary results are expected to be out Tuesday. This week WMNF spoke with Mark Weisbrot, who is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He says the Organization of American Statesâ€™ validation of the election shows that Western governments have a stake in Haitian politics that has little to do with Haitians.
"There was a problem with these elections from the beginning which is that they excluded the largest political party and a number of other large political parties, which was Fanmi Lavalas, which has won every election that it's ever contested and it's the only really large political party in the country. It would be like excluding the Democrats and the Republicans in the United States. This was done arbitrarily and so in that sense I don't think it's a legitimate election to begin with if you just, you know, compare it to problematic elections in the world like Iran or Afghanistan, this was much worse. And then the outcome turned out to be even worse than that with widespread problems of people not being able to vote. People showing up and not being able to vote because they weren't on the rolls. You know, they also have a cholera epidemic right now and that got completely pushed aside because of the election. Housing, you know, 1.1 million homeless people from the earthquake, only a tiny fraction of them have gotten housing, so it's really been an amazing failure in terms of the whole reconstruction effort. An unbelievable failure for such a small country with such a relatively small population, no civil war going on or anything like that, it's just incredible that so little has been done. And that was a lot of the sentiment that our people experienced. 'Why are we going through this electoral circus when we have such life threatening problems, including the cholera epidemic, now?"
Why do you think, what you call an electoral circus took place when it did amid this reconstruction that's apparently slow going?
"The country is being run by this international commission, that is mostly made up of the international community, I think they wanted these elections to try and legitimize the government, but I think it's going to have the opposite effect. I think most Haitians won't consider this a legitimate government. They tried this last year with the Parliamentary elections in April of last year and there was a complete boycott, 90 per cent of the people did not vote. We don't have figures on voting this time, probably they're considerably higher than 10 per cent this time, but given the irregularities, the massive irregularities, but more importantly, the exclusion of the largest political party, I think you are going to end up with a government that's widely seen as illegitimate."
So, how and why do you think the largest political party in Haiti was excluded from this election?
"That was a decision of the electoral council which is not an independent body or even constituted in a way that the Haitian constitution provides for, and it was a political decision so that, basically, the current government could choose it's successor. Just to go into more of the background, Haiti has not had a democratic history until 1990 when John Bertrand Aristide was elected. It was the first really democratic election and then he was overthrown 7 months later in a military coup which had a lot of US fingerprints on it. And then he was restored a few years later but then overthrown again in 2004 he ran for another election. He also killed a lot of people after the coup. Somewhere around 4,000 people, supporters of the constitutional government, some of them were thrown in jail. All of this was done, it's very obvious, it was done to get rid of the elected government. And so this is a fundamental problem, Haiti has been ruled for most of the last century or so primarily through violence. Aristide got rid of the Army which was the main source of the violence. And I think he was able to rule without this violence because it was a very legitimate government. It had enormous popular support and the United States didn't like that, they didn't feel that government could function without this army."
What is the US's stake in this election?
"That's a good question, you know, people will say that 'nobody cares about Haiti, it's poor, and everything else' but if the United States didn't care about Haiti it wouldn't have overthrown the government twice, already. I think that they care about every country in the hemisphere and the one's that are the weakest are the one's that they are able to influence the most. It's all part of a grand strategy of having governments that they consider to be allied or friendly or do what they want. The State Department, in general, will favor democratic elections but only when the outcome is the one that they want."
That was Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, talking about the outcomes of Sundayâ€™s presidential election in Haiti. The race had a dozen candidates, and Weisbrot says observers from his organization saw many instances of disenfranchisement at the polls. Preliminary results from the election are expected Tuesday. The Organization of American States, which deems the election valid, declined WMNFâ€™s request for comment.