Haitian Political Summit by Stanley Lucas

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Haitian Political Summit: Proposal to Haitian Political Parties
by Stanley Lucas
April 1, 2010

President Preval has called for elections to be held in November, when his term expires, despite the ongoing inability to meet the basic needs of the Haitian people affected by the earthquake.

Three months after the earthquake, more than 1.5 million people are still sleeping on the streets, among them 65,000 pregnant women and newborn babies.

People are still having trouble getting food, pots and pans, and basic medical care. A recent study determined that only 12% of the money donated to earthquake relief has been deployed.

Certainly, elections are not the top priority at this time. However, Haiti's political parties must be prepared in the event that elections are pushed forward.

Overview of the Electoral Infrastructure

Electoral Infrastructure Destroyed:
As you all know, the electoral infrastructure suffered a devastating set back as a result of the earthquake.

The following is the estimated damage:
Approximately 45% of the electorate lost their electoral registration cards, birth certificate, or national ID card (Carte d'Identite).

The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) building and technical equipment was destroyed along with all the voting records and electoral maps.
· MINUSTAH, which provides support to the CEP, was destroyed disabling the main logistical support for elections.

It is estimated that it would take 14 months to fully reconstruct Haiti's electoral infrastructure and organize free and fair elections.

Systemic Challenges:
In addition to the total destruction of the electoral infrastructure, there are several systemic challenges that present challenges to the organization of elections in November, which is only seven months away.

· The current CEP is not an independent, impartial authority.

It has political leanings and a history of electoral manipulation that taints the elections at the outset.

· The postponed Legislative elections will also need to be organized further compounding the organizational challenges.

They should combine both the presidential and Legislative elections.

Chaotic Environment:
Elections are vulnerable to manipulation given the ongoing widespread chaos as a result of the earthquake.

Further, the people are dealing with serious mental and physical trauma.

Frustrations are mounting with the continuing difficulty of securing basic provisions.

And, emotions are running very high and there is frustration with the impotence of the Haitian Government.

Typically, elections in Haiti bring their own type of stress on the population with voter intimidation and electoral fraud.

This volatile and chaotic environment only compounds this stress.

Proposed Governance Scenarios
There is almost universal agreement that the Preval Administration has been completely and totally ineffective in its ability to manage the earthquake crisis.

This crisis has also highlighted the dire situation that country was in prior to the earthquake.

Clearly, a change in governance is needed, but a move this significant requires deliberation and consensus.

To date, there have been three scenarios proposed for moving forward:

1. November Elections:
As mentioned above, President Preval is pushing for November 2010 or January 2011 elections.

Given the destruction of the electoral infrastructure and his track record presiding over elections ( for more: solutionshaiti.blogspot.com/2008/01/pr... ), the likelihood of manipulation, fraud and chaos is very high and the likelihood of a smooth transition of power is very low.

2. Constitutional Appointment:
According to Article 149 of the Haitian Constitution, if the Presidency is vacated for any reason, the President of Supreme Court assumes the President's duties upon consensus of the National Assembly until such time as credible elections can be organized.

3. International Takeover:
There are some international actors calling for Haiti to be turned over to an international "trusteeship" and managed by the United Nations.

This is essentially amounts to a soft occupation of the country violating Haiti's sovereignty.

Among the advocates for this scenario are: US Senator Chris Dodd, Canadian observers, Bill O'Reilly, a conservative US political pundit, and Dumas Simeus a member of the Haitian-American business community.

Proposed Political Summit
In addition to the political challenges that Haiti's political parties are facing, there is the added urgent threat of further natural disaster this summer.

Thirteen hurricanes are currently forecast.

Haiti's political parties must act quickly and efficiently in order to address this question of how to transition power.

The political parties, along with the civil society, should immediately organize a political summit to develop a plan on how to transition power in November.

Parties need to be prepared to put for their plan for political transition, but they also need to prepare for elections being forced through.

They will need to redouble their efforts to develop their political platforms putting forward their vision of how to reconstruct Haiti and how the country should be governed.

In this process, building consensus is absolutely paramount.

We need to keep in mind that, "In unity there is strength." Faced with the potentially destabilizing possibilities of international takeover or widespread electoral manipulation, we need to put aside personal political ambition and come to a consensus based on what is best for the country.

We have no room for error; we have no room for infighting or delay.

We need to get this right because we owe this to the victims, especially those who are still sleeping on the streets after three months.

Stanley Lucas, April 1 2010, 6:12 PM

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