|After December's elections, Haiti could have yet another U.S.-backed president with a weak democratic mandate.
In October, Haitians went to the polls in a critical election for nearly 5,000 political positions, including the presidency. The preliminary results named Jovenèl Moïse, a member of outgoing President Michel Martelly’s party, as the frontrunner — though by a small enough margin that a runoff vote is planned for December 27th.
Unfortunately, evidence of overwhelming fraud discredits these results. If the putsch is successful, Haiti could have yet another U.S.-backed president with a weak democratic mandate.
The United States has a long legacy of destructive intervention in Haiti — whether through direct military occupation, support for heinous dictators, facilitation of coups d’état, or manipulation of the electoral process.
The election of Martelly in 2010 was a case in point, illustrating the lengths that the United States — along with the Washington-dominated Organization of American States — is willing to go to ensure that only politicians who comply with the policy dictates of elite interests hold power in the western hemisphere’s poorest country. The flaws in that election were profound: The most popular political party was prohibited from participating, and there was widespread disenfranchisement and fraud.
After the 2010 vote, an OAS panel of international experts, lobbied by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself, intervened to move Martelly onto runoff elections, despite a lack of votes and an abundance of Haitian and international outcry. OAS Special Representative Ricardo Seitenfus described the maneuvers even then as a “silent coup d’état.”
Martelly went on to serve as a puppet for the interests of the international and Haitian elite, notably through his “Haiti is Open for Business” program, which promotes multinational investment in high-stakes extraction and development. Much of the land seized for these purposes has been taken from small farmers and other desperately resource-poor people.
The U.S. has provided Martelly enthusiastic support, with Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. UN ambassador Samantha Power, and U.S. ambassador to Haiti Pamela White all offering statements of support in moments of crisis. Yet Martelly’s government failed to hold even one of the numerous constitutionally mandated elections for parliamentary and local offices. Martelly’s unwillingness to organize votes led to the dissolution of parliament after every member’s term expired in January 2015, allowing him to rule by presidential decree ever since.
While the October elections were praised by the international press as comparatively calm, they were plagued with the same manipulation of years past. In addition to other forms of fraud and vote theft, out of the 1.6 million votes cast, over 900,000 were entered not by normal citizen voters, but by people with passes awarded by political party representatives. The Center for Economic and Policy Research reported that these passes were sold to the highest bidder for anywhere between $2 and $30.
The preliminary results of the presidential candidates that will move onto December’s runoff elections were released on November 4th. The only candidate that did not denounce the results was the first-place winner Jovenèl Moïse, the government’s preferred candidate and a key player in Haiti’s growing agribusiness industry with a large financial backing. Seven others have called for an investigation, and the Haitian people have regularly taken to the streets to protest yet another vote being stolen.
Nevertheless, the U.S. and OAS are standing by the declared results and have both released statements of support for the integrity of the elections.
For a comment on the state of democracy in Haiti, I reached out to Mario Joseph, Haiti’s most prominent human rights lawyer, in October. Here’s what he had to say:
The elections work for the international community, who wants a president like Michel Martelly to negotiate away Haiti’s land and resources to them. They don’t want a popular president to govern Haiti, because a popular government would value the needs of the Haitian people, not the Rodham-Clinton family.
To learn more about and support the work of Mario Joseph at the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, visit www.IJDH.org. For up-to-date coverage on the elections, visit the Haiti Elections Blog. Thanks to the Haiti Justice Alliance and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti for making this interview possible, and to Melissa Ballard for her help in transcription.
Natalie Miller is the Media and Education Coordinator at Other Worlds.