Low Turnout In Haitian Elections

By Seth Galinksy, The Militant, Vol.60 no.1, 8 January 1996

MIAMI—With little enthusiasm, Haitians voted for a new president December 17. Less than 25 percent of Haiti's 3.7 million voters turned out for the contest.

We are voting all the time. But we haven't found any solution to our problems, said Vigier Louis, a 24-year-old student in St. Marc. Personally, I'm tired of voting.

Washington had pressured Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide to proceed with the election. The Clinton administration sunk $10 million into the election process. But even U.S. officials had to admit that many Haitians felt Aristide should stay in power three more years to make up for the time he was in exile after a September 1991 coup.

According to the Miami Herald, there were more posters calling for three more years for Aristide than there were for all of the 14 presidential candidates. Aristide officially endorsed René Préval, candidate of his Lavalas party, just two days before the election. The vote took place in the midst of rising inflation and unemployment. Faced with mass opposition to privatizing the state-owned cement and flour plants, the Aristide government put on hold plans to sell the factories.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Préval said, The state has to create the conditions for private business to invest, then leave the private sector to its activities.

Although Washington has been the most fervent backer of the elections, it has little confidence in the ability of the Haitian government to carry out U.S. dictates. Some 2,200 U.S. troops head the 5,800-member UN force, which was scheduled to leave after February 29. But the Clinton Administration has told the Haitian government it wants to keep U.S. and UN troops on the island well past that date.

In the meantime, Washington still refuses to turn over all the records it seized last year from Haitian army headquarters and from the paramilitary group FRAPH after the U.S.-led invasion that returned Aristide to the presidency. According to the Herald, the Pentagon now says it will turn over the documents after it purges the names of Americans.

At an election day rally held in Miami Romain Pierre, a construction worker and a supporter of Préval, said there is no more use for U.S. troops. They don't do anything except help the Tonton Macoutes, referring to the thugs who backed various military regimes. And when the Haitian people try to confiscate the arms, the U.S. troops raise hell. The U.S. troops must go, he said.