Why Can't Haitians Get a Fair Election?

On November 2, Americans will have the opportunity to vote for their
representatives in Congress, an election likely to affect whether the
"normal" retirement age is raised for Social Security and how
decisively President Obama moves to end the war in Afghanistan. There
are many legitimate criticisms to be made of the electoral system in
the United States as we know it. But it could be much worse. We could
be confronted with the electoral system that Haitians are currently
facing in elections scheduled for November 28.

In Haiti, as things are currently run, political parties are
completely excluded from participation if the people currently in
power don't like them, including Haiti's largest political party, the
Fanmi Lavalas party of deposed and exiled former President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

It is a telling fact of our political-media culture that while
American newspapers regularly carry articles, op-eds and editorials
raising the alarm about democracy and human rights in countries where
the U.S. has little influence, the major U.S. media are virtually
silent about extreme violations of democratic rights in Haiti, a
country where the U.S. has tremendous influence. (Two rare,
praiseworthy exceptions have been the Miami Herald, which
last month published this
by Ira Kurzban, and the reporting
of the AP's Jonathan Katz

In particular, the unfair elections that Haitians are expected to
endure are expected to be paid for by foreign donors, including the
U.S. There is no serious question whether the U.S. has influence it
can use. Indeed, in Afghanistan, the U.S. and other Western donors,
who pay for Afghan elections, told the Afghan government, unless you
implement certain reforms, we're not paying for the election.

But, although both Republican and Democratic Members of Congress have
called for the U.S. to use its influence in Haiti to ensure a fair
electoral process, there has been so far no visible change in U.S.
policy. Despite all the blather following the earthquake about how
"this time it's going to be different, this time Haitians will have a
say," it's not different this time. Not yet.

In June, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee published
a report
prepared under the direction of Republican Senator
Richard Lugar, the ranking Member. Senator Lugar's report called on
the State Department to press the Haitian government to reform Haiti's
Provisional Electoral Council so that political parties, including
Fanmi Lavalas, would not be arbitrarily excluded from participating in
the election. But, as far as anyone can tell, the State Department
never said boo about it.

Now Representative Maxine Waters is circulating to her colleagues a letter to Secretary of State
, urging Secretary Clinton to make a clear statement that
elections must include "all eligible political parties" and "access to
voting for all Haitians, including those displaced by the earthquake."
Rep. Waters' letter urges that the US not provide funding for
elections that do not meet these minimum, basic democratic

Shouldn't it be a no-brainer to say that the U.S. shouldn't pay for
elections in Haiti from which the largest political party is excluded?
If you agree, ask your Representative to sign the Waters letter for
fair elections in Haiti. You can reach the Capitol Switchboard at
202-224-3121; ask to be transferred to your Representative's office.

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