The Haiti Democracy Project granted an interview in French today to Radio Energie of Boston, which was interested in the recent delegations from Haiti which the project fielded as its Fifth Legislative and First Judicial delegations. In the interests of time, it will be summarized in English.
Project director James Morrell explained that since 2003 the Haiti Democracy Project has fielded twenty-eight delegations from Haiti in an effort to increase Haiti’s access to Washington decision-makers. Most of them had been delegations of businesswomen and -men from Haiti, but there had been delegations of legislators, Diaspora elected officials, and most recently the Haitian supreme court. Morrell explained that however various the delegations, they all wanted to have Washington’s understanding and support for the difficulties they were encountering in Haiti. They believed that the checks and balances of Haiti still lay along the banks of the Potomac.
The delegations had seen the State Department, other executive agencies, members of Congress, professional committee staff, leading thinktanks dealing with Haiti, and leaders of the Haitian Diaspora. The list of the delegations, their membership, and all their appointments are posted on the organization’s website http://haitipolicy.org.
The reporter at Radio Energie wanted to know why there had been an increase in delegations this year, but Morrell explained that there had only been two this year so far with a third coming, about the same as in previous years. The Fifth Legislative Delegation, composed of a senator and deputy, wished to explain the predicament of Haiti with an unelected president whose term had expired who would not leave office. He was attempting to get a joint session of parliament to meet and extend his term, but the delegation explained that a joint session had no power to prolong or renew a presidential term. Thus, they were maneuvering in parliament to forestall such an unconstitutional act.
The First Judicial Delegation was composed of the chief justice of Haiti’s supreme court and three other justices, comprising four-fifths of the existing membership of the court (it should have twelve). They wished to draw Washington’s attention to the provisions of the constitution of 1987 governing presidential installations. They confirmed the interpretation of the previous legislators in that the constitution did not give the legislature the power to prolong or renew a presidential term. Once having served a term, a president was obliged to wait five years before applying for a second and final term. In the event of a presidential vacancy such as Haiti had now, the constitution’s choice fell on the chief justice of the supreme court to serve for ninety days to oversee elections for a successor to serve the full five-year term. If the chief justice were not available, the choice fell on the next senior justice. This had been done twice in recent decades.
The justices explained that constitutional amendments passed in 2011 had been irregular and were invalid, leaving the constitution of 1987 as the one guide. They went into considerable detail on the technical points in a long session with the Congressional Research Service and the law library of the Library of Congress.
As the justices were making their presentation to senior staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the staff answered that they need not justify their legal explanations to them. They, the justices, were the supreme court of Haiti and whatever interpretations they made of the law were conclusive. The senate aides confirmed that Democratic and Republican members of the committee were coming to a common view of disappointment with the political class of Haiti leaving the country without an elected president. The United States wanted to have an elected government as a collaborator in Haiti to tackle the country’s serious problems.
The reporter went on to ask about the Haiti Democracy Project and Washington’s reaction to the State Department’s decision to suspend funding of Haitian elections. Morrell commended the State Department for refusing to fund the same election twice, especially since the first one had been perfectly good. As mentioned on previous interviews with Radio Energie, the Haiti Democracy Project and NOAH had received reports from 208 accredited election observers, among whom only 3 percent found serious problems with the voting process. Nevertheless, the new electoral officials had arbitrarily thrown over a million valid votes into the trashcan. Morrell noted that the European Union had pulled its mission out of Haiti over this issue, and he did not see how the Haiti Democracy Project could observe the re-do either. The only one that would observe it would be the OAS, which was an organization that would accept almost anything.
The State Department’s decision was supported by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Morrell added.