WASHINGTON - The Obama administration should explain why it is contributing millions of dollars for Haiti’s November 28 presidential and legislative elections, despite the arbitrary exclusion of over a dozen political parties – including the country’s largest party -- from the ballot, Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said.
Last week the U.S. State Department was asked about the issue for the second time, yet once again did not have an answer. The exclusions problem has dragged on for months, becoming a growing scandal.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Weisbrot said. “The U.S. has known about this problem for months, and it has been reported numerous times in the international press, not to mention that it is a major bone of contention in Haiti. Imagine if we had an ‘election’ in the U.S. and both the Democratic and Republican parties were not allowed to participate. The Obama administration’s inability to explain why U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used to support such a blatantly anti-democratic process is inexcusable.”
The controversy was raised again last week with a letter from 45 Members of Congress stating that the U.S. should not provide funding for elections that do not “include all eligible political parties and ready access to voting for all Haitians, including the displaced.”
Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has kept 14 political parties, including Haiti’s most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, off electoral ballots since before April 2009, when the parties were excluded from legislative elections. In that “election,” the exclusion resulted in a boycott by more than 90 percent of the electorate. The CEP’s plans to carry over the banning of these parties to the next elections has ignited protests, planned boycotts, and controversy in Haiti, with some politicians, voters, and analysts complaining that the CEP’s members have largely been hand-picked by the Preval administration. Preval’s Inite party, unlike Fanmi Lavalas, will be on the November 28 ballot.
In a recent interview with CEPR, the CEP President, Gaillot Dorsinvil, said that the U.S. government is contributing $5 million for the elections, with another $10 million being spent by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (an NGO funded in part by the U.S. State Department and USAID) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
After the letter from 45 members of Congress was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week, a reporter asked for comment during the State Department daily press briefing. It was the second time the issue had been raised during the briefings (the first was September 15 following an open letter [PDF] to Clinton signed by over 20 NGO’s). The exchange reveals the State Department’s lack of concern regarding the issue:
QUESTION: And one other small one. Are you aware of the letter that Congresswoman Maxine Waters and more than 40 other members of Congress have sent regarding Haiti? And I’m interested particularly in comment on their request that the U.S. Government should state unequivocally that it will not provide funding for elections that do not meet these minimum basic democratic requirements and those --
MR. TONER: I got your -- I saw what you forwarded to me. And obviously, we want free, fair, democratic, transparent elections to take place in Haiti as well. And we’ll look into these allegations and the letter and comment later. We just -- I’m sure we’ll review it and respond appropriately.
QUESTION: Well, this isn’t the first time that concerns like this have been raised. And when I asked about them a couple of weeks ago – 10 days, two weeks ago – there wasn’t really a solid answer; it was pretty much the same thing. But the specific problem that these Congress people are citing and that the human rights groups and other groups had before them is the disqualification of certain political parties from running. Do you have –
MR. TONER: Again --
QUESTION: You have no comment on –
MR. TONER: I’m aware of the allegations and the letter. I just – I can state that we want to see free, fair, and transparent elections.
QUESTION: Well, does that mean that –
MR. TONER: So we’ll look into these and I promise we’ll respond.
QUESTION: You promise. Okay.
MR. TONER: I pledge.