Sunday, February 12, 2006

On lose-lose situations

The problems surrounding the results of Haiti's election shouldn't be much of a surprise given the months of delays and suspicions that preceded the vote. But however the results of the first round of voting turn out, there'll be plenty of reason for many Haitians to be suspicious about the results:
A member of Haiti's electoral council said results of the presidential elections were being manipulated, echoing complaints by throngs of supporters of Rene Preval, who poured into the streets Sunday with angry allegations of fraud...

"According to me, there's a certain level of manipulation," Pierre Duchemin, an electoral council member, told The Associated Press, adding that "there is an effort to stop people from asking questions" about the counting process...

Suspicion has risen among many Haitians that the results were being manipulated in the five days since voters turned out in droves to elect a new government. It will replace an interim government installed after then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in a bloody rebellion two years ago.

Jean-Henoc Faroul, the president of an electoral district with 400,000 voters northeast of the capital, accused the electoral commission of trying to force a run-off, saying tally sheets from Preval strongholds have vanished...

Preval was leading 33 candidates with 49.1 per cent of the vote, short of the 50 per cent plus one vote he needs to avoid a March 19 run-off with the runner-up. Leslie Manigat, also a former president, was second with 11.7 per cent of the vote.
There's already been ample reason to wonder whether the "caretaker" regime would ever cede effective control over the country, particularly given its efforts to set irreversible policies before Haitians received another chance to vote. And the contrast between an unaccountable, foreign-imposed regime and a democratic leader is all the more stark now that an official from the temporary regime seems to hold unilateral control over the question of when any transition takes place.

But then, it would be tough to describe a late shift toward Preval as a particularly positive outcome either. Even if a late shift does occur based on a genuine vote count, opposition forces may well claim that it was the post-vote rallies that pressured the electoral authorities into that outcome. And the rivals of Haiti's democratically-elected leaders haven't shown much of a history of respecting even results that were beyond doubt.

Unfortunately, every outcome now looks far worse than the result had the countries currently involved in Haiti (Canada included) used their influence to allow the last democratically-elected Haitian leader to complete his term of office. And whatever the outcome of the election, it's clear that there's an awfully long way to go in trying to build a stable Haitian democracy.

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