Haiti: Martelly builds a house of cards for elections
- Wednesday, September 19, 2012 7:59 PM
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (defend.ht) - At the price of 10 million HTG per Deputy, the Martelly administration showed a clear sign of desperation when it formed the 60-member majority bloc in the lower house. After a long 16 months of President Martelly, this formation demonstrates that political instability still exists in Haiti and that within the government there is an absence of a comprehensive plan for development and will for political stability. Stubbornly the president moves towards elections built on the shakiest of foundations that can have a long-standing negative impact.
This 60-member majority bloc in the lower house of the legislature, the Chamber of Deputies, was established this past week and carries the name of Parliamentarians for Stability and Progress (PSP). It is more a bloc for stability, in a very unstable situation, than for progress.
Leader of the PSP, Deputy Jean Tholbert Alexis (Croix-des-Bouquets/Inite), on Monday denied that 10 million HTG ($250,000[US]) for each deputy was part of the deal that made the agreement between the MPs and the president possible. Deputy Alexis said that this amount money is available to all deputies and supposedly the communes they represent, which in its outset is already questionable whether lawmakers rather than municipal authorities should be directly handling government funds.
In either case, not many believe Deputy Alexis, neither do I, and rightly so. It would defeat the purpose of forming a âpresidentialâ bloc in the lower house of parliament if money is not involved. Historically this is not how things have been done in Haitian politics. Know this:
In Haitian politics money is the only determining factor of what gets done and what doesn't and that's for two reasons. First, everyone agrees on what needs to be done in Haiti; its citizens need food, security, housing and jobs, the most basic of necessities. Second, no one in the entire government has put forward a plan towards achieving these ends for the population, beyond allowing the international community through non-governmental organizations to lead and care for the citizens.
Therefore, what we have as a political landscape in Haiti is unlike many other countries in the world, whether in North or South America, Europe, Africa or Asia. In Haitian politics, where the problems are so evident and ideas not, there are no chasms of ideologies that would induce politicians to gravitate to one another based on ideas and ideals to form political parties or voting blocs.
There is no identifiable group that can be labeled as liberal or conservative, left or right, socialist or capitalist in Haiti. There is simply men and a few women, that are driven by money, power and the desire to continue to hold both. The harsh reality is that Haitian politicians are bought and sold and this is not news to anyone paying attention. And it is because of these reasons that there is a multitude of political parties in the country and voting blocs that are created and destroyed yearly.
So, any argument that suggests that President Michel Martelly gained an agreement with 60 deputies, not because money was offered but because he, in his 16 month in office, miraculously presented a plan for developing Haiti that inspired unity between such a large number of low-level, disorganized and hungry politicians, within which has already been said, the political parties are numerous, does not understand politics in Haiti.
It has not even been two weeks since former Senator, now adviser to President Martelly, Joseph Lambert, spoke on the airwaves of Vision 2000 radio saying that thousands of dollars including bulletproof vehicles were given to the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Levaillant Louis-Jeune, for his support for Martelly's Permanent Electoral Council; a subject I we will now get to because this is the basis for the bloc, and the latest level in the presidentâs house of cards.
Martelly's Electoral Council
The consensus nationwide , also admitted by parliamentarians, is that this presidential majority bloc in the lower house, known as the PSP, is to get the signatures of 2/3s of deputies to unilaterally, without the Senate, select two council members to represent the legislature on the Permanent Electoral Council.
Besides being the latest of a series of backroom, under-the-table, dealings by the presidency to establish this electoral institution, whose legitimacy has been questioned from its inception (discussed in further detail later), this effort is completely unconstitutional.
All parliamentarians, Deputies and Senators, are supposed to participate in the establishment of the Permanent Electoral Council but because President Martelly has badly handled the process of establishing the council, many in the Grand Body, that is the Upper House of the Legislature, the Senate, have elected not to participate in the process and are calling for all previous efforts, including the appointment of members to the Superior Council of Judiciary to be recalled - also based on its constitutionality (more details later, I promise).
The private sector, journalists, MPs, human rights organizations, diplomatic corps, all were invited to the Karibe Hotel with the understanding that it would be meetings of open dialogue only to find that they were meetings to be persuaded to favor Martelly's electoral council. These meetings ultimately failed to achieve confidence and the shelling out money is Martelly's desperate attempt to get some legislative skin in his operation. It is President Martelly's desperate resort to use bribery in order to give his CEP the appearance of consensus.
Examining the Foundations
One shouldn't go so far as to declare Martelly's project âdoomed to failureâ but like a house of cards, the slightest breeze of discontent, when it counts, in this case election day, if it survives until then, will tear everything and a lot more down with it.
In December of 2011, with the intervention of the Club of Madrid, a four-step process of holding elections in Haiti, and in the big picture, creating political stability, was determined. I wrote about these four steps many times and published them in the context of the Club of Madrid intervention on December 22, 2011.
On January 13, 2012, the Club of Madrid echoed this framework and published on its website press room âHaitian President launches key unblocking measures with the support of the Club de Madridâ . Coincidentally, the Haitian presidency sent a letter of intimidation to me on this same day but that's a matter outside the scope of this writing. Continuing onâ¦
With a reluctance for democracy, for national consensus, Martelly began one-by-one accomplishing these very important four steps necessary in building a democratic and stable government. But under the surface, outside of the attention of international observers, he tainted each and every level of this foundation with ineptitude, irregularities, compulsion and corruption. His actions will ultimately lead to fraudulent elections, if not at least the perception of which.
Letâs examine further each of the four steps that needed to be taken and President Martellyâs undermining of their integrity as he proceeded.
Step 1: Publishing the legitimate Constitution of Haiti: An amendment process which took place before Michel Martellyâs inauguration into the presidency was reversed by presidential decree three weeks into Martellyâs term . It doesn't take a course in Constitutional Law 101 to know that an executive cannot rescind amendments to the Constitution, made in all regularity by the legislature and made effective by the previous president. But Martelly did.
So the first step towards political stability was to remove this aberration of a presidential order and publish the amended Constitution. Martelly finally did in June 2012, retracted his earlier, arbitrary and illegal order, and published, in the official journal of the state, Le Moniteur, the amendments to the Constitution. But Martelly failed to signoff and publish the entire Constitution of Haiti as a whole to make it known throughout the nation, and throughout the world.
Today, people basically have to piece together the amendments, with the former document in order to have a Constitution because the final step, described in ARTICLE 281-1 of the Constitution of Haiti, TITLE XIII, Amendments to the Constitution, which demands that the newly amended document âshall be published immediately throughout the territory,â was not observed. Therefore, there is a climate of confusion with regards to the Constitution and some are interpreting the changes in their own way.
Step 2: Completing the Supreme Court establishing the CSPJ: For decades Haiti has not had a functioning Cour de Cassation. It has always been partially filled with none or not enough justices to rule on any matter that concerns the nation. With this, the judicial system in Haiti has never been independent.
The process for appointing judges to the Supreme Court is as so: Senators present a list of judges, three (3) times, the number of justices needed to sit on the highest permanent court of the land and the President selects from this list who he will appoint. Martelly failed this step because two judges that he placed on the Supreme Court were not on the list presented by Senators, and a third, the one chosen to be Chief Justice of the Court, Anel Joseph Alexis, had, at the time he was sworn in, passed the allowable age for appointing judges of 65 years.
A by-product of completing the Supreme Court is the establishment of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary (CSPJ), which is the administrative body of the entire judiciary branch of government and gives this branch its independence and separation from other powers. The CSPJ basically has the control of hiring, firing judges, reassigning them, things of that nature which were previously done by the executive branch through the Minister of Justice. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is the Chairman of the 9-member CSPJ and other judges of the high court serve along as members of the CSPJ.
But it turns out that these three judges, wrongly appointed to the Supreme Court, became the culprits of an illegal nomination of members to the Permanent Electoral Council, which leads us into step 3.
Step 3: Establish a Permanent Electoral Council: Since Haiti came out of the dictatorship of the Duvaliers it has not had a âPermanentâ Electoral Council, which is the standing institution with supreme and sovereign authority to plan, hold, and declare elections at every level in Haiti. For 25 years Haiti has had one after another, âProvisionalâ Electoral Councils, when this provisional-type body was only meant to be a one-time engagement, to get the ball rolling after the first democratic elections, post-Duvalier, post-dictatorship, and after those elections a permanent-type.
This is because a provisional electoral council differs from a permanent one in its formation, tenure and desired function.
For example, a provisional electoral council has all its nine (9) members selected by the Chief Executive, whether it be a military junta, an interim-president, or president. Contrarily, a permanent electoral council has its nine (9) members selected by each of the branches of government. Three (3) are appointed by the executive, three (3) by the judiciary and three (3) by the legislature and within the legislature and judiciary there is an internal democratic process that is required to make each of their appointments.
Another example where the two differ is that the provisional electoral council has a mandate for only one election cycle, whether it is for presidential, legislative or municipal elections, it is established provisionally to get the country through the election at hand. And contrarily, the permanent electoral council has members which serve for nine (9) years and cannot be removed, with three (3) council members (one from each branch of government) being replaced every three (3) years.
The differences between the provisional and permanent electoral council exist to avoid corruption, fraud and other malfeasance which occurs when temporary electoral authorities, all selected by the executive branch, as in the provision electoral council is usually the case. Provisional electoral councils have made election time in Haiti the most contentious and deadliest times throughout any year, throughout the history of Haiti so avoiding them is important.
But back to the aforementioned crooked appointments to the Supreme Council of the Judiciary through the Supreme Court: In July 2012, the body, representing the judiciary sent its three names of appointees to the National Palace and these three (3) appointments were accepted by President Martelly.
A day would not pass that the public would learn that the three (3) names selected by the CSPJ for the CEP, was made in a vote irregular that was attended by only four (4) members of the nine (9) member judiciary council; noting one of the four (4) members was the Chairman, Chief Justice Anel Joseph Alexis, which should only vote in the case of a tie. Despite protests by other members of the CSPJ, Martelly accepted the three (3) appointments.
Two officials from the CSPJ, one of which was its only female member, representing human rights organizations and another a representative from the Federation of Bar Associations of Haiti, have since resigned because of these appointments. The Federation of Bar Associations, parliamentarians and other public figures are calling for the indictment and removal of Chief Justice Alexis and the other questionable members of the Supreme Court.
Eventually after some, clearly public and obvious, back-room dealings, President Martelly was able to get another member who had previously abstained from the vote to side on to its three (3) selections, but the public perception is and remains that money and other promises had been exchanged for this support. The CSPJ lost credibility and legitimacy in less than one month of being established .
The three (3) members selected by the judiciary council which all have close ties to the administration and records that some say are insufficient for the post, were added to by three (3) members selected by the executive, of which one is the former Minister of Justice, Josue Pierre Louis, who resigned in disgrace in October of 2011 for illegally coordinating, at the request of President Martelly, the arrest of a sitting-member of parliament because he had fallen into a verbal altercation with Martelly. The MP, Arnel Belizaire, was arrested despite his parliamentary immunity, never charged with any crime, spent a night in prison and was released the following day and in less than a month Pierre Louis and the Government Prosecutor at the time were forced to hand-in their resignations .
Martelly already made matters worse when he swore in his Permanent Electoral Council, which should consist of nine (9) members but only had six (6) individuals, but compounded the act by unilaterally naming Pierre Louis the Chairman of the Electoral Council and a woman named Gabrielle Hyacinthe , the CEPâs Director General. Eyebrows were and remain raised because it is not the right of the president to name either of these individuals. The CEP is an autonomous body that is supposed to select its chairman and its director general after being fully established and sworn in. President Michel Martelly is well within his right to appoint Pierre Louis to the Permanent Electoral Council but not as its chairman, with or without a complete council.
In a recent article in the Haitian newspaper, Le Nouvelliste , Pierre Louis said he would hold fair elections and that he owes âno royaltiesâ or payback to âanyoneâ, if he is to be taken at his word but from the previous incident when he was a Minister of Justice, the public does not intend to do that, and people do not believe that Pierre Louis can work independent of influence.
Today, the CEP is not fully established, despite declarations by President Martelly, because members of the Senate have boycotted the process because of all the aforementioned offenses. The three (3) electoral council members to be chosen by the legislature must pass a 2/3s vote in both houses and this is the basis of President Martellyâs logic that he can purchase a majority bloc in the lower house, with which he somehow finds it sufficient to obtain two (2) electoral councilors to represent the legislature, solely with the lower house, not the upper house, to form an eight (8) member â rather than a nine (9) member â Permanent Electoral Council. This also leads to the final step 4, for political stability.
Step 4: Holding Legislative and Municipal Elections: These elections were supposed to be held almost a year ago, on November 2011. It is the reason why the Haitian Senate has only twenty (20) members and not the thirty (30) it requires. It is also the reason why more than 120 municipal officials, including mayors and commissioners, are either still holding office well past the end of their terms, or in most cases have been arbitrarily selected and unconstitutionally replaced by individuals appointed by the president; which is illegal because the Constitution requires these individuals to hold office only by âuniversal suffrageâ or maintain their seats until elections are held, but thatâs a whole other problem outside of the scope of this piece, but none-the-less a major problem.
Martelly intends to proceed with this house of cards and hold elections. As elections, I again state, are the most contentious and deadliest, times in Haiti, it is not a stretch to believe that this upcoming cycle, if achieved, will be no different if not worse, most likely, worse.
I believe it will be worse because since late 2009, when I launched the Defend Haiti project, Haitian politics has been more in the public eye than ever before. It has become social through my work and the work of many other new and long standing publishers on the internet and social networks. I imagine these elections will be a fusion of Haitiâs history of violent elections, Martellyâs incompet style of dictatorship and with a mix of the kind of social technology that brought about the Arab Spring.
But what I find most damaging, is not this terrible conclusion that I hopefully wrongly predict will take place but the fallout of despair in the Constitution, in the amendment process, in the Supreme Court, CSPJ and Permanent Electoral Council, that is already taking root and will hold the nation down for years to come. But also, at least this time, through documentation, we know that it was a house of cards prone to collapse.