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From editor@haiti-progres.com Sun Mar 12 12:27:47 2000
Date: Sat, 11 Mar 2000 21:10:36 -0600 (CST)
From: Haiti Progrès <editor@haiti-progres.com>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 17:51 3/8/2000
Article: 90914
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
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Postponed elections: New excuse for foreign meddling?

Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 17, no. 51, 8-14 March 2000

Two weeks ago, Haïti Progrès carried the headline March 19: Elections impossible based on the analysis made by the National Popular Party (PPN) in a Feb. 21 press conference. Last week, other groups such as the Mouvman Konbit Nèg Lakay in the town of Léogane and the peasant organization KOZEPEP from the Artibonite Valley also issued assessments deeming it impossible to hold nationwide parliamentary and municipal elections scheduled for that date.

The calls come after weeks of protest by thousands across Haiti who have been unable to procure a photo identification electoral card, due to shortages of supplies and of voter registration stations (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 17, No. 49, 2/23/00). In a futile attempt to keep the schedule for Mar. 19, which was already a postponement from last November, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) extended the registration period from the end of February until Mar. 3. But on that date, the CEP had to finally cede to reality and formally announce - after a week of coy allusions - that the elections would be postponed. Elections are now set for Apr. 9 with run-offs for May 21. The registration period has been extended until Mar. 15.

The CEP claims that over 3 million people have already been registered. But many organizations doubt that assertion. The CEP is making an ideological coup d'état by giving a lie every day, said Duclos Bénissoit, spokesman for the powerful public transportation drivers union. He said that the figures being given by the CEP did not square with the quantity of materials given to the registration offices.

This appraisal seems justified by the CEP itself, which blamed the shortages of electoral materials on the widespread disappearance of supplies. There has been so much theft, so much diversion of registration materials, that it has brought the registration process to a halt, said CEP spokesman Carlo Dupiton. For instance, in the Artibonite alone, materials for registering 91,600 voters have been stolen, he said.

But the PPN and other groups feel the shortage of electoral materials and registration stations was a deliberate move to affect an electoral coup d'état by limiting the electorate and thereby the electoral prospects of the Lavalas Family, the party of ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is generally acknowledged to be Haiti's most popular politician. The registration materials are produced by the Canadian firm, Code Inc, which was contracted unilaterally by the U.S. State Department's Agency for International Development (USAID) via the USAID-spawned semi-official International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

Capturing the Haitian parliament is key to the strategy of right- wing Haitian parties, discreetly supported by Washington, to contain Aristide, who is expected to easily win presidential elections set for November. Therefore, rightists are anxious to hold the parliamentary contest long before the presidential one so that Aristide does not act for other FL candidates as an aircraft carrier, in the words of Gérard Pierre-Charles of the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL), a bitter FL opponent.

We have to, on the one hand, avoid one general election at the end of the year, Micha Gaillard, the Port-au-Prince mayoral candidate of the center-right Espace de Concertation alliance, told Reuters. At the same time, though we may not like it, we must allow another two or three weeks at the most, so that everyone is comfortable with these elections.

The Patriotic Movement to Save the Country (MPSN), a far-right neo-Duvalierist alliance, was not as copacetic about the election postponement. They along with the OPL have called for President René Préval's immediate resignation. If the elections are being postponed, Préval has to close the [Presidential] Palace and leave the key under the door for us declared the MPSN's Reynold Georges, and the CEP has to go too. These resignations, called the zero option, have been proposed by the MPSN for months.

While such rants are to be expected, a more insidious positioning was taking place among the international community, which has been intruding in Haiti's sovereign elections since the beginning.

I have a wish to formulate, said French ambassador Yves Godel on Mar. 1. It is that the elections take place on the scheduled dates; that is Mar. 19 and Apr. 30 for the run-offs. I know that there are some small difficulties, but I think that should not prevent the elections from being held on the scheduled dates. I do not think a postponement would be desirable. Of course, ambassadors are completely out-of-line to comment on the internal political affairs of their host countries.

Next it was the turn of the Canadian ambassador, Gilles Bernier, to inappropriately opine after the CEP's decision. The delay should not be too long because that could cause the country a lot of problems, Bernier said, according to Reuters.

But the most alarming intrusion came from the U.N. Security Council, whose authority to meddle in Haitian internal affairs (a UN Charter violation justified by an exceptional 1993 appeal from then exiled President Aristide for help to restore democracy) technically ends on Mar. 15, with the expiration of the mandate of the MIPONUH (UN Civilian Police Mission in Haiti). Therefore it was curious to see this month's council president, Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury of Bangladesh, issue a statement on Mar. 3 saying: It is the view of the Security Council that prompt, free and fair legislative and local elections are essential for the restoration of the national parliament. The Security Council went on to warn Haitian electoral authorities on the importance of remaining close to the electoral calendar. On Mar. 6, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan echoed the demand for prompt, free and fair legislative and local elections for the restoration of Haiti's Parliament and for strengthening Haiti's democracy, according to his spokesman.

Who is to determine what is prompt and close to the electoral calendar? Foreign diplomats, the U.N. Security Council, and Kofi Annan? What if the elections now set for Apr. 9 derail and have to be pushed back again? What if the CEP chooses to hold one general election next November, as groups like the PPN have proposed? Does the U.N. Security Council imagine that it has any say in such a decision? Is it looking for an excuse to, in UN- speak, remain seized of the matter of Haiti?

These are the questions raised by the Security Council's last minute warnings. In the case of Haiti, as in so many other world theaters, the Security Council is merely a tool in the hands of Washington. Clearly, if the situation in Haiti takes a turn the US government does not like, it will first resort to the world's highest executive body to justify its meddling.

There remain 219 UN police men in Haiti as of Feb. 21, according to Annan's final report on the MIPONUH to the Security Council on Feb. 25. The report envisages that the MIPONUH assets in Haiti will not be liquidated until June 30. Meanwhile, UN police advisors, without arms or uniforms, are slated to be deployed this month in Haiti as part of the new mission called MICAH (International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti), which is a creature of the recently resuscitated Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and is supposedly under the General Assembly's aegis. Nonetheless, the U.S. government, working through the Security Council, is trying to fashion ways to use ECOSOC and MICAH to its ends.

Also this week, the first of 80 UN election observers arrived in Haiti, essentially swapping places in towns around Haiti with the out-going human rights observers known as the MICIVIH (International Civilian Mission in Haiti). In short, the UN has so many civilian missions in Haiti, all basically to camouflage the ultimately military intentions of the United States government should events in Haiti not go the way it has planned.