Haiti Election Fiasco: Chickens Come Home to Roost

Robert Naiman, Policy Director, Just Foreign Policy, offers commentary on the Haitian election for the Huffington Post. Haiti is on edge, after Haiti’s election council announced preliminary results in the November 28 election which even the US Embassy has questioned.

Like others, the Government of the United States is concerned by the Provisional Electoral Council’s announcement of preliminary results from the November 28 national elections that are inconsistent with the published results of the National Election Observation Council (CNO), which had more than 5,500 observers and observed the vote count in 1,600 voting centers nationwide, election-day observations by official U.S. observers accredited by the CEP, and vote counts observed around the country by numerous domestic and international observers.

According to the results announced by the CEP, Jude Célestin, Haitian President Preval’s anointed successor, will advance to a runoff along with Mirlande Manigat. But this outcome depends on a razor-thin margin in the CEP’s tally: only .64 percentage points – 6800 votes – separate Jude Célestin from Michel Martelly.

The CNO – financed by the European Union – had predicted that Celestin would be eliminated, based on polling voters at 15% of polling stations.

But even putting the CNO evidence to the side, 6800 votes is way too small a margin to have confidence in the outcome, given the widespread allegations of fraud.

This was a disaster foretold. Back in June, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee published a report prepared under the direction of Republican Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Member, calling for Haiti’s electoral council to be reformed. But the Obama Administration ignored Lugar’s report, despite the fact that the US government was paying for the elections, as 45 Members of the House pointed out in an October letter.

Why was Sen. Lugar’s report ignored? It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the overall framework of US policy has been: the right people are in charge, the people that we support, so we can’t push them too hard, because that might inadvertently result in the wrong people being in charge.

How did the “right people” get to be in charge in Haiti? The US supported a coup against democratically elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004. UN troops have been there ever since, maintaining the “order” brought about by the US-supported coup. One of the electoral council’s most controversial decisions was to exclude the Fanmi Lavalas party of former President Aristide. Sen. Lugar and 45 Members of the House criticized this, but the Administration was silent. That represents continuity with the Bush Administration’s support of the coup against Aristide in 2004.

Opposition in Haiti to the presence of UN troops has crystallized recently with accusations that UN troops were responsible for the outbreak of cholera in Haiti, which has killed at least 2000 people. The UN and others initially dismissed these accusations as unfounded rumor, but now a report by a leading French epidemiologist, selected by the French government to assist Haitian health officials in determining the source of the outbreak, says that UN troops were the likely source of the cholera outbreak.

The flawed election, ignoring warnings about the electoral council; and the lack of honesty about and accountability for the cholera outbreak, suggest it is high time to turn a new page in US relations with Haiti, towards the restoration of full Haitian sovereignty. US officials should support a timetable for the withdrawal of UN troops from Haiti. You can sign a petition to U.S. officials here.

For the original report go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/haiti-election-chickens-c_b_793999.html

Photo: Newsweek

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