Haiti's Elections: A High-Tech Sham
Posted: Sunday, October 3, 2004
By Lucson Pierre-Charles
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The ouster of Jean-Bertrand Aristide was orchestrated by and for the ruling minority. For two hundred years, they have ruled the country by proxy and have undoubtedly some responsibility to bear for the current state of affairs in the country. However, following Aristide's forced departure, they have decided to change course. They have established a puppet regime of technocrats with the aim of smoothing the progress of a total minority rule and according to latest indications, they are right on target. The technocrats have turned the country upside down. They have transformed the nation into an open theater with farcical promises, farcical disarmament, farcical trials and upcoming farcical elections.
In an attempt to boost its technocratic profile, the U.S.-backed administration--assuming it survives the present chaos--plans to hold digitized elections next year in order to seal a victory for a few. According to a Reuters report released in early August, "Haiti's plans to hold high-tech and costly elections in 2005 are at risk unless international donors rapidly provide promised funds, a senior election official said. Five months after president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in an armed revolt, Haiti's electoral council needs $100 million to organize what will be the most expensive ballot in Haiti's 200 years of independence, council member Rosemond Pradel said."
The nine-member electoral council (CEP) was created without the participation of the Lavalas party, which decided to boycott it following waves of arrests and persecutions of Aristide loyalists. As the report further indicated, such situation "has undermined confidence in the panel, and especially in the government's plans for a computerized voting system that some analysts fear could be manipulated to prevent Aristide's supporters among the poor majority from determining the outcome. Preparations for the election have been torn by infighting, and the electoral council faces the further challenge of trying to organize high-tech voting with digitized identity cards and electronic voting machines in a country that barely has electricity."
In an effort to appease critics of the plan, council chairwoman Roselaure Julien made a public statement last week in which she announced that an agreement was reached between the CEP and the political parties to forgo the electronic voting machines and retain the digitized ID cards instead. It is only in this status quo that one can envision digital ID cards without digital machines. Her statement, which failed to address the prospect of influencing the outcomes of the election, comes months after a power struggle to control the electoral body was made public. The infighting was so heated that both Boniface and Latortue had to intervene in order to keep the actual makeup of the institution. The clash was intended to bring down Julien and replace her with the actual representative of the private sector, which in turn wanted to have complete control over the high-tech aspect of the upcoming elections. Julien "accused her colleagues of a plot to hijack the electoral process and denounced a fierce power struggle among those who helped oust Aristide and said she had come under pressure to resign because she had resisted attempts to influence her. I won't kneel down, said Julien, I say there should be a free and fair election, not selection, nomination or plebiscite." In such a context, one must assume that the fight to control the CEP will not go away given that the private sector has no way of capturing the presidency except through electronic ballot.
A report released by the Associated Press in late August revealed that "Haiti has signed an agreement with the United Nations and the Organization of American States to organize elections next year and already has US$9 million in U.S. aid available to help cover the costs. The U.S. aid will be spent on training elections personnel, creating a new voter registration system and setting up an electronic voting system." This is why, despite Julien's statement on the rejection of computerized voting machines, American and Venezuelan experts are on the ground conducting demonstrations on the significance and benefits of electronic voting.
Last July, international donors pledged over $1 billion to help rebuild Haiti. The technocrats hope to use part of that money to organize a computerized election where the winners will be pre-selected. Upon receiving the donors' pledge, Latortue promised to double electricity service to 12 hours in Port-au-Prince. So where will his administration find enough energy resources to run a high-tech voting system across the country? Through some technocratic means perhaps. Besides the electricity dilemma, other challenges must also be addressed. In a country where close to 80% of the population are illiterate and basic infrastructures are nearly nonexistent, the idea to run a computerized election is beyond human comprehension. Despite all the uncertainties associated with electronic voting machines--a system terribly unreliable and not accountable--Haiti would be the last place in this region to hold high-tech elections.
In a further attempt to secure the elections, the private sector has launched a new political party, Parti Libéral Haitien (Haitian Liberal Party). The party will run on a conservative platform with the aim of boosting the private sector and promoting a liberal economy, they claimed. To the surprise of the Haitian political class, the announcement was made in Norway during a forum organized and hosted by the Norwegian government for various segments of the Haitian civil society in late August. In the lead-up to the coup against Aristide, the leader of the Group 184, Andy Apaid Jr., promised his allies that he would never transform his movement into a political party. But things have changed lately and the machine has been set in motion. They have the party and the means; the only missing factor is the ballot. They are in no way capable of collecting the necessary votes except through electronic voting, which is also one tangible way to deter people from voting and suppress the majority. Even f voters were to show up to the polling stations, the technocrats are well aware of the challenges that people will face in trying to use the computerized machines. They will probably rely on high-tech poll workers to "assist" the voters. They are not concerned about huge voter turnout; they only need the elections to be held as planned.
Since Aristide's forced departure, the vast majority of Haitians have been marginalized and left with no credible figures to represent their interests. The technocrats have used all tactics in their effort to repress all dissent, to persecute former Lavalas officials and incarcerate them in order to silence the poor majority. In the name of the majority, they are working actively to facilitate a transition that will plunge the endangered nation further into despair. Their ultimate fate lies in their disregard of the country's 200 years history.
Lucson Pierre-Charles, a native of Haiti, now lives in Maryland. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was reproduced from counterpunch.org by consent of the author.
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