Lavalas Flexes its Muscles in Haiti

Haiti’s Lavalas movement effectively destroyed the credibility of yesterday’s Senate election through a successful boycott campaign called Operation Closed Door. Even the most generous electoral count puts participation at less than 10% in the capital of Port-au-Prince while the actual figure may be as low as 3% nationwide.

According to Rene Civil, one of the spokespersons for Operation Closed Door, “What we are seeing is the non-violent resistance of the Haitian people to undemocratic elections. There is no way they will be able to call the Senators elected in this process legitimate. You cannot hold elections without the majority political party.” Ronald Fareau, another representative of the campaign stated, “We want to congratulate the international community for their hypocrisy in these elections. They spent over 17 million dollars on another electoral fraud in Haiti while our people continue to suffer from malnutrition and illiteracy.”

The controversy over the election began when factions of the Fanmi Lavalas party originally presented two slates of candidates to the Conseil Electoral Provisoire or CEP. In an apparent attempt to wrest control from Aristide, one faction led by former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune questioned the legitimacy of the slate presented by the former president’s appointed representative Dr. Maryse Narcisse. Neptune’s faction presented a second slate but in the end the Fanmi Lavalas party’s leadership managed to hammer out a compromise list of candidates in time to meet the deadline.

The CEP finally refused to accept the Fanmi Lavalas applications on the grounds they did not have former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s personal signature from exile in South Africa. The CEP reportedly would not allow for a facsimile copy of his signature on the documents when they were presented on the final day of the application deadline. This effectively excluded all Fanmi Lavalas candidates from participating in the election and led to the boycott of the Senate elections on Sunday.

Neptune and other members of his faction within the Fanmi Lavalas party called for participation in the election despite the nationwide boycott. Early Sunday morning Neptune said publicly on a local radio program, “We must vote today if we are to keep the integrity of the democratic process.” When asked on Radio Caraibe’s Ranmase program if he had a message for voters Neptune responded, “Vote well.” The success of yesterday’s boycott was taken as a referendum of support for Aristide by the base of the Lavalas movement in the much-touted internal party conflict.

Although there were some reports of sporadic violence in yesterday’s elections between supporters of current president Rene Preval’s Lespwa party and its rival L’Union, the disruptions were isolated to a single city, Mirebalais in the country’s Central Plateau region.

There were largely no reports of violence or voting irregularities in the capital where streets and polling stations remained deserted throughout the day. The only incident occurred in the seaside shantytown of Cite Soleil after a member of the L’Union party was accused of handing out money and food to bribe voters.

Private vehicles and motorcycles were banned during the election as they were during the presidential election in Feb. 2006. Where long lines formed at the polls early in the day on Feb. 7, 2006, polling stations remained virtually empty on Sunday due to the Lavalas boycott.

Five Lavalas hunger strikers continued to occupy Haiti’ s parliament building in an effort to draw attention to their party’s exclusion from the election. They vowed to continue until the election is nullified and demanded that they be held over again during upcoming national elections scheduled for November.

As of 2:00 PM in Haiti today, thousands of demonstrators were gathering in front of the parliament to support the hunger strikers as SWAT teams with the Haitian National Police, backed by UN military personnel, were seen surrounding the building.

Kevin Pina is a documentary filmmaker and freelance journalist who has been working and living in Haiti for the past three years. He has been covering events in Haiti for the past decade and produced a documentary film entitled Haiti: Harvest of Hope. Mr. Pina is also the Haiti Special Correspondent for the Flashpoints radio program on the Pacifica Network's flagship station KPFA in Berkeley CA. He is also the Founding Editor of the Haiti Information Project (HIP), an alternative news agency operating in Port au Prince, Haiti. Read other articles by Kevin, or visit Kevin's website.

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  1. Ansel said on April 21st, 2009 at 5:33pm #

    Thank you Dissident Voice for publishing this work – thank you Kevin Pina for your reporting from Haiti. This is critical work.

  2. john andrews said on April 22nd, 2009 at 12:12am #

    Operation Closed Door.

    I love it.

    May it be copied in almost every so-called ‘democracy’ in the world, for any ‘democracy’ that is effectively managed by just two political parties is a sham.

    Political parties are the cancer of democracy, and no one should ever vote for anyone who belongs to one. If people can’t vote for an Independent they shouldn’t vote at all.

    Bravo Haiti.

    Free Democracy is a solution. (