Note: OPL originally stood for Organisation Politique Lavalas. In 1998 it changed its name to Organisation du peuple en lutte (Organization of the struggling people).
1. Assessment of the political situation
It is disturbing that Haiti, even after its long fight for democracy and in spite of the resolute support of its foreign friends, has not yet reached a level of modernization and economic growth that would permit it to consolidate its institutions. Moreover, there is a political malaise that goes beyond the immediate electoral crisis and the visible differences within the Lavalas camp to encompass a wide-ranging attack on democracy. This is becoming worrisome to important sectors of the population.
This situation is rooted in the heritage of totalitarianism, the persistence of certain modes of thinking and habits of the past. It occurs among those who now control the political and economic decision-making in Haiti. These new actors lack pragmatism or a real capacity for political management. Witness the retrogression in our society, the unrealized aspirations of the majority, and the lack of innovative spirit among these actors and the Haitian elite in general. This reveals the fundamental weaknesses of our institutions. The extent of these problems and the incapacity to face them causes inertia, a tendency to revert to outdated methods, or a facile yielding to the temptation of radicalism or belief in the coming of a “Messiah.”
This messianism, with its anarchic-populist accents and its ambition to control the future of the country, is an obstacle to the consolidation and modernization of our institutions and a destabilizing and demobilizing factor that casts its shadow over the democratic future of the country. These influences operate:
- On the office of the presidency, drained of its decision-making power and reduced to serving merely for show and as a front for the real power.
- On the functioning of the prime ministership, disrupted, absorbed, and trivialized by this shadow president.
- On the parliament, which the anti-democratic forces would like to control or dissolve, and which is deliberately pressured, courted and divided.
- On the judicial institution, from the supreme court to the judges, with attempts to limit their independence, thereby compromising judicial reform.
- On the police who are systematically infiltrated and perverted for illicit or political ends.
- On the electoral commission in its provisional state, which is coopted, subordinated to partisan interests, and utilized to shape a Permanent Electoral Council (CEP) with a term of nine years that will ensure the permanent presence of personal power.
These influences also operate:
- On the political parties and civil-society institutions, which they seek to marginalize.
- On reform of the state, reorganization of finances, and the necessary struggle against corruption and for the efficacy of public policies.
- On the modernization of public enterprises and the legal instruments and institutions for economic reform that are systematically denounced.
By taking over these institutions they mean to neutralize or dismantle them and put them at the service of their anti-democratic project. On the other hand, every effort to create a stable government should focus on strengthening the legal basis of these institutions and shielding them from this anti-constitutional seizure of power.
2. Our position regarding the electoral crisis
OPL sees this crisis as part of the anti-democratic project and therefore one of its components is the reconquest of direct power by Jean-Bertrand Aristide. This man faces erosion of his leadership and a loss of popularity on a national level. So, to ensure the loyalty of his followers, he has declared himself a candidate for the presidency in 2001 and has already begun his political campaign.
However, even though he created a machine of fraud and intimidation and got the members of the electoral commission working for him, it is significant how weak a performance he turned in in the April 6 elections. It is from this larger context that the immediate events take their significance:
- The imposition of their majority on the senate by fraudulent means and intimidation. In this regard, their goal, however unworkable, is the installation at all costs of the two senators who were falsely elected and declared winners in the first round by a scandalous and illegal manipulation of the blank votes.
- The subordination of the Permanent Electoral Council (CEP) to this anti-democratic project. It began with the cooption, already accomplished, of the current provisional commission — a process recognized as fraudulent by the OAS-U.N. observation mission, the secretary-general of the United Nations, the European Community and other concerned countries. Thus the mayoral and parliamentary elections of 1998 would clear the way for personal power without counterbalance or the need to share in the year 2000 and beyond.
- The prolongation of the crisis and the situation of confusion and uncertainty that gives a greater field of action for this shadow presidency. By this they mean to control or destroy certain institutions, dissolve parliament and clear the way for the emergence of the providential leader.
In the face of these dangers, OPL has called since the beginning of the crisis for the annulment of the elections and the dissolution of the CEP as the condition for its participation in the second round of elections. During the following months, in spite of the interventions of the prime minister, Rosny Smarth, and of parliament, and in spite of the intermediation of members of the international community, as well as the compelling positions of diverse sectors in favor of a negotiated solution, President Préval has ignored all attempts at serious negotiation.
What seemed to be an openness to dialogue on his part was transmuted, in mid-July, after the visit of Ambassador Richardson to Port-au-Prince, into an uncompromising stance. The publication in the official gazette of the “results” of the first round started the process of the territorial-assembly elections, as well as the fruitless attempt to name a prime minister without the necessary consultations with the presidents of the two chambers.
Finally, the negotiations begun, at our insistence, on September 16, 1997, have not resulted in any advance. In fact, OPL in the spirit of cooperation proposed the formation of a new Permanent Electoral Council (CEP) from slates of three credible citizens presented by a group of civil- society associations (human rights, employers, trade unions, social workers, religious workers, and the parties that did not participate in the elections). The executive, the legislative and the judiciary would make their choice of nine members, who would guarantee the legitimacy of the organization. These members would proceed to evaluate the April 6, 1997 elections. The two parties would promise to respect their verdict.
At the same time, OPL proposed a comprehensive framework for negotiations on the questions of economic policies, governability, and the nature of the government. We proposed doing this before getting into the issue of the qualifications of the next prime minister who should not assume his position until a resolution of the crisis has been achieved.
Faced with these constructive propositions, President Préval prefers to engage in erratic behavior and the politics of doubletalk and inconsequential alliances. At the same time, to justify his positions he continues to use specious arguments with his international interlocutors, contending that:
- In Haiti there have never been truly free elections.
This argument permits a justification of the fraudulent April 6 elections, including the involvement of the Permanent Electoral Council, and absolves the president of the republic of his responsibility to safeguard the progress of these institutions.
- Under the constitution, the president cannot intervene and dissolve the CEP.
This provisional CEP is “unconstitutional” and is the product of a political agreement. President Préval asked the members of the former CEP to resign from their posts. Then, he pushed through an agreement allowing the resignation of only certain members of the CEP, ostensibly to assure the continuity of the electoral process. Such a decision, which will facilitate the accession of these same persons to the CEP, invalidates the argument that the president always makes.
- The electoral law made the CEP the sole judge of its actions. Neither the president nor any other entity is able to question the results proclaimed by the CEP.
Such an argument ignores the crisis and pushes the executive towards becoming an accomplice to the irregularities and the frauds, toward endorsing the partisan positions of the CEP, and towards ignoring even the principles of universal suffrage and political negotiation.
- The second round of elections will offer a way out of the present impasse.
Such a vision is inspired by a desire to exclude and is a short-term calculation. Rather than resolving the crisis, it compromises the future of democracy in Haiti by reproducing the outdated methods of our past. The whole of these facts, record of behavior, and designs shows clearly where the block in negotiations originates.
3. Our commitment to progress and modernization of the economic and political system
OPL, conscious of the damage the political deadlock is causing to stability, peace, economic renewal, and the confidence of the people in the democratic system, continues to search for an immediate solution to the crisis. We reacted favorably to the proposition advanced at the beginning of October by the international community and which was communicated as well to President Préval for deferment of the elections to November, 1998 and a concerted search for a political agreement on a solution to the crisis.
President Préval did not react to this proposition, nor to that which we made in mid-September. OPL, conscious of the dangerous effects that the prolongation of this crisis has on our fragile institutions, is ready to consider all other propositions in search of a lasting solution.
OPL considers that one of the most important elements of the democratic transition is the fact that the political actors as well as the population are beginning to insist that the allocation of political power no longer be arbitrary. It is absolutely imperative, now more than ever, that the institutions put in place to manage the electoral process be credible. Otherwise, the distrust by the population of these institutions and of elections themselves will compromise all advances towards a state of law.
The weak participation of the population in the last election is already a disturbing sign. The discrediting of the CEP and of the electoral process cannot but increase this distrust. This is why we have proposed for reconstituting the CEP to reach out to the political parties who did not participate in the elections, in hopes of beginning to enlarge the base of the political system.
With this perspective, we have attempted to build an alliance with the independent parliamentarians in order to maintain our majority in the parliament. OPL has just signed with several other political parties of diverse viewpoints a joint declaration stating that the deformation of the CEP constitutes a menace to the future of democracy in the country. We are ready to take other initiatives to give this nation hope for constructing a viable democracy that will guarantee peace and development.
The positions taken by OPL have always been considered, coherent, constant and unambiguous. We have supported economic reforms with social content, modernization of the state, and efficacy of public policies founded on principles of clean government and the campaign against corruption.
In the search for a durable solution to the current crisis and for the construction of a democracy as an indispensable context for sustainable development, OPL, in negotiations with the president has supported:
- The necessity of respecting institutions as well as the rules of the democratic game in order to guarantee peace, stability and governability.
- The opening of the political system to the democratic sectors other than those of the Lavalas denomination.
We also consider it indispensable to create a national accord with entrepreneurs and professionals to assure their full involvement and participation in the modernization of our society and in the transformation of the economy. An accord with a new vision can make these sectors more successful economically, more conscientious in struggling against poverty, more involved in the construction of a modern economy, give them a foothold in the international economy and contribute to the resolution of the serious problems of the country.
The international community contributed to the return of democracy in Haiti. It must continue the necessary effort to uphold the struggle of democratic Haitians, working to neutralize this new coup d’etat threatening the institutions of democracy.
Port-au-Prince, October 18, 1997