The Christian Science Monitor reported yesterday on the crisis of legitimacy surrounding the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) in Haiti. CSM writes:
Details of an Aug. 16 meeting between Mr. Préval and members of Haiti’s election commission (CEP) has observers questioning whether the CEP rejected candidates based on politics instead of the Constitution.
The Monitor continues, noting that some allege President Préval personally removed some candidates from the final list, including former U.S. ambassador and Jean’s uncle, Raymond Joseph.

Although the election process has received considerable media coverage, most of it has simply focused on the candidacy of Wyclef Jean and not the larger issues relating to the CEP. As we have written numerous times before, and as described in an open letter from over 20 Haiti and U.S.-based NGO’s to Secretary Clinton this week, the CEP has suffered from a lack of legitimacy well before the current electoral season because of their arbitrary exclusion of Haiti’s most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, as well as numerous other political parties from last years planned legislative elections.  To the Monitor’s credit however, they also report on the exclusion of the political parties, writing:
The CEP excluded 14 political parties from parliamentary elections and seven political parties from presidential elections, including Fanmi Lavalas, the popular party of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Reasons given for its exclusion do not “pass the smell test under Haitian law,” says Mr. Concannon at IJDH.

The CEP previously banned leftist party Fanmi Lavalas from senatorial elections in 2009, despite appeals from the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) for the CEP to reverse its decision. Fanmi Lavalas has won with wide margins in every election in which it participated, a recent IJDH report pointed out, including 90 percent of seats in 2000 parliamentary elections.

Fanmi Lavalas has been joined by Alternative, UCADD, Rasemble, and Liberation in calling for a boycott of the November election. The latter four parties and were permitted to present candidates but backed out amid growing uncertainty over the CEP’s ability to hold fair elections.
Yet despite all of this, the international community (other than a report from the Republican Senator Richard Lugar) has not raised its voice calling for free and fair elections. As the Monitor reports:
But overall the international community, which is providing most of the election’s $29 million price tag, appears reluctant to interfere with the election process and slow down what it perceives as Haiti’s urgent need for a new government.
While the election is an important step in the reconstruction process, what is more important than simply having a new government is having a legitimate government.  Writing in the Miami Herald last week attorney Ira Kurzban, who was the general counsel in the US for Haiti during the Aristide and first Preval administrations, makes exactly this point:
These political maneuvers are not lost on Haiti's people. While the mainstream media in the United States focuses on whether Wyclef Jean may run for president or what Sean Penn thinks of Jean's candidacy, the Haitian people refuse to play the fool. Indeed, they know the presidential election that will be imposed on them has nothing to do with democracy.

They will, as they did in 2005, only support a presidential candidate who will bring Aristide and Famni Lavalas back to the Haitian electoral system. With Famni Lavalas out of the race, the election will have extremely low turnout, which international ``authorities'' will predictably say is ``the best one can expect'' given the earthquake.

The result is a faux election that will have lasting consequences for Haiti and the international community.

It will undermine the stated goal of the United States and its allies to achieve ``stability'' in Haiti, and it will undermine the legitimacy and sustainability of a central Haitian government that is not elected by, but for, the people.

Fair, inclusive elections -- that include the participation of Famni Lavalas and other legitimate political parties and respect for the right of all exiles to return, including Aristide -- are essential for establishing a Haitian government with the legitimacy and capacity to effectively manage the country's reconstruction. Settling for elections that are less than fair and inclusive might seem expedient in the short term, but in the mid- and long-term accepting flawed elections will ensure civil strife and political controversy. It will imperil international community investments in Haiti while leaving the country vulnerable to the next natural, economic or political disaster.
For more on the political history surrounding former president Aristide and the exclusion of the Fanmi Lavalas party, see Johann Hari’s article in today’s Independent.