Election Success: Relative or Absolute?

  • Posted on: 20 February 2006
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

haiti electionsOver the past week, I’ve had a number of people sarcastically ask how the elections were going. This was usually accompanied with an expression that said, ‘is Haiti ever going to do anything right?’

Now granted, the majority of these individuals had read an article buried deep in the international section of their newspapers, and assumed that they could make a direct comparison between the election process in Haiti and what they experienced every four years in November. These same people appear shocked when I proceeded to tell them that I thought elections went marginally well. Voter turn out was high, violence was low, and what appeared to be the impossibility of finding a majority among 34 candidates was accomplished in a relatively short amount of time.

Were the elections perfect? No, and with the recent announcement by the Provisional Elections Council confirming that the elections were “tainted by fraud”, their legitimacy is further called into question. However, the Haitian people in conjunction with the international community must decide, and decide quickly, whether they will endorse the elections and continue with the job of rebuilding a country.

Now, I am in no way suggesting that any irregularities should be swept under the rug in the name of progress. The evidence of discarded and burnt ballots is troubling and should be investigated to the fullest extent. But what Haiti can not afford is a drawn out ‘politicized’ investigation, which only serves those vying for power at the expense of the millions living in poverty.

The concessions that need to be made by both sides in order for democracy to flourish are often the most difficult for individuals or political parties to make. This was never more evident than in the elections of 2001, in which the inability of both parties to reach a consensus on eight Senate seats cost Haiti millions of dollars in aid from the international community. Haiti can not afford to make the same mistake twice.

But let’s not lose sight of the fact that given the resources Haiti had to work with, the elections should be considered a success (just think if Haiti was given even a quarter of the amount the US is spending in Iraq to build democracy). While the reports of fraud are troubling, we must not lose sight of the fact that Haiti has entered a new chapter in its history and what is important now is to help rebuild a country that is devastated by poverty and disease. We can debate election results until we’re blue in the face, but only at the expense of not addressing the problems facing the country.

The Haitian people and the international community must decide today if the elections were justifiable and if so, provide Preval’s presidency with the legitimacy it deserves. Haiti can not afford to wait, because even waiting until tomorrow to address the problems facing the country is already too late.

To see election results, click here.

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