Illegitimate elections

Just read a report from the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (I recently went to a talk by Brian Concannon, their director, at the UW school of Law) about the illegitimacy of Haiti's elections scheduled for this upcoming Sunday, November 28.

The elections will choose the president for five years, the entire House of Deputies (like our House of representatives) for four years, and one-third of the Senate for six years. So a pretty big deal. But unfortunately, the Electoral Council in charge of the election is basically corrupt (and hand-picked by the current president) and they barred 15 legitimate parties (including the most popular party, Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas) from participating. The analogy IJDH uses to describe the barring of FL is it would be like telling both Democrats and Republicans that they couldn't participate in our next election. Yeah, pretty major stuff.

Yet the U.S. and the international community is supporting the elections- the U.S. alone is providing $15 million for them. There are major issues with identification and voter registration after the earthquake, and international groups are focusing on addressing those issues, but there doesn't seem to be any movement towards legitimizing the actual party participation.

The recent riots in Haiti have focused on the cholera outbreak and the fraudulent elections. Voting boycotts have been called for, and the last time FL was excluded, only 3-11% of Haitian people voted (11% was the high number reported by the corrupt Electoral Council, so I imagine 3% is more accurate). No election with 3% participation anywhere in the world is ever fair, especially an election this big.

I get the feeling that most Americans are justifying the elections because some elections are better than no elections. But IJDH makes an incredibly salient point: In such troubled times where the government has massive changes to initiate and huge challenges to overcome, a government without support will be next to useless. And quite possibly, dangerous.

For example, with all of the land use issues and rebuilding, the new government will have to require people to relocate, leave their homes, and go without government services while the government rebuilds. A government without the trust of its people will be unable to accomplish this without force. And, as IJDH points out: "Forcing large numbers of people to do anything is difficult; forcing people who have nothing to lose and have already suffered as much as they can bear, with a small and inexperienced police force, will be next to impossible."

Basically, illegitimate elections are setting the stage for violence. Just what Haiti needs.

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