November 15, 2002      


The CEP Process
The Government of Haiti’s Position
The Necessity for Prompt Elections


  Pursuant to its agreement with CARICOM and the OAS, the Government of Haiti
made every effort to work with the Haitian institutions and sectors charged
with naming a Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) by November 4.  These
efforts moved Haiti much closer to having a CEP and scheduling elections; in
fact, nominations were officially submitted for four of the nine Council
seats.   The full Council was not named at the deadline, however, because
five institutions or sectors requested a two-week delay from President
Aristide, and two organizations refused to participate at all.  Another
reason for the delay was a division within two sectors over nominees that
left eleven groups seeking the nine seats.  In each of these one organization
within the sector nominated a councilor, while another either refused to
participate or asked for a delay.

  The five institutions and sectors that sought a delay stated that they have
already chosen their CEP nominees, but wished to delay submitting the names
pending the negotiation of the technical assistance that Haiti has requested
from the OAS, and progress on the government’s disarmament efforts.  
President Aristide believed that the request was made in good faith, and has
agreed to the two-week delay.  He is determined, however, that a CEP be
formed promptly, and elections scheduled soon.  The urgent and extreme needs
of Haiti’s people, and the country’s agreements with the international
community would require that the process continue without those not willing
to cooperate in good faith.

The CEP Process

  On September 4, a consensus of OAS members, including Haiti, agreed on
Resolution 822, which endorsed an agreement called the Draft Initial Accord,
negotiated among the OAS, CARICOM and Haiti last June.  Pursuant to these
agreements, a nine-member CEP was to be named by November 4.  Each of nine
institutions or sectors of society was given the right to nominate a
councilor: the Convergence Democratique coalition, other opposition political
parties, the Lavalas Family party, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference, the
Protestant Churches, the Episcopal Church, the human rights organizations
through the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, the Chamber of Commerce
and Industry of Haiti, and the judiciary.

  The judiciary, the Lavalas Family, a coalition of opposition parties, and a
coalition of Protestant churches have all nominated councilors.  The
Convergence and another group of opposition parties have not nominated a
counselor.  The Bishop’s Conference, the Federation Protestante d’Haiti, the
Episcopal Church, the Justice and Peace Commission and the Chamber of
Commerce together requested a two-week delay.

  The five institutions (the “Group of Five”) stated clearly that they had
finished the process of designating nominees, and that they considered it
their civic duty to contribute to realization of the next elections.  They
were reluctant to disclose the names of the nominees until: a) Haiti and the
OAS had negotiated the Terms of Reference for the technical cooperation
requested by the Haitian Government in the areas of police
professionalization, electoral security and disarmament; and b) the Haitian
government had shown concrete progress in its disarmament program by
addressing its concerns over the weapons carried by civilian security guards
of  elected officials.

  An additional issue was raised by the apparent differences within two
sectors the Protestant churches and the opposition parties not in the
Convergence Democratique.  One coalition of opposition parties named their
representative, while another did not participate.  Likewise, a group of five
Protestant organizations named a councilor, while the Federation Protestante
d’Haiti asked for the delay.

The Government of Haiti’s Position

  The Government of Haiti is determined to organize credible elections, with
the greatest possible participation of the electorate and the institutions of
civil society, without undue delay.  To that end, the government has already
made enormous sacrifices: seven senators resigned their seats sixteen months
ago to allow for new elections; the eleven remaining senators elected in May
2000 and all members of the Chamber of Deputies have agreed to anticipated
elections for their seats; top government officials have participated in
countless hours of negotiation, discussion and collaboration with members of
civil society and the international community; and Haiti invited a Special
OAS Mission into the country to help develop its democratic institutions.

  The Government of Haiti has made substantial progress with respect to the
specific concerns voiced by the Group of Five.  Well before November 4, Prime
Minister Yvon Neptune wrote to Ambassador David Lee, the head of the OAS
Special Mission, requesting technical assistance in several areas, including
the three areas mentioned by the group of five.  Since then, the OAS and
Haiti have been negotiating Terms of Reference for the assistance, and have
reached agreement on principle with respect to assistance relating to
elections, electoral security, professionalization of the police and
disarmament.  It is expected that the details will be finalized, and the
relevant Terms of Reference published in a matter of hours, or at the latest
by Monday, November 18.

  The Haitian Government has also pursued disarmament aggressively for the
last several months.  Its multi-phase effort has involved a gun buy-back
program and concentrated searches of cars and homes.  The OAS Special Mission
convened a three-day conference with national officials and international
experts to help improve the disarmament program.  On November 14, President
Aristide issued a declaration requiring legislators and local elected
officials to limit themselves to handguns for personal defense.

   The Government of Haiti has continued to dialogue with all parties willing
to collaborate.  On November 13, President Aristide met with many members of
civil society to discuss the Terms of Reference for the OAS assistance and
security issues.  The Catholic Church’s representative to the meetings,
Bishop Hubert Constant, expressed both his satisfaction with the encounter,
and the determination of the members of the Group of Five to nominate
councilors by the extended deadline, without any additional delays.

The Necessity for Prompt Elections

  Any undue delay in the elections is unacceptable, because the Haitian
people have suffered enough from the country’s political crisis, which has
dragged on too long.  The development assistance embargo imposed by some
members of the international community after the May, 2000 elections has
generated enormous misery.  The desperate Haitians who landed in Miami late
last month left millions behind who were similarly suffering from the
embargo.  The Haitian people need and deserve a complete Parliament, with an
unquestioned mandate, to focus on the urgent tasks of Haiti’s political,
economic and social development.

  Timely elections are also important to avoid a legislative void, and to
comply with Haiti’s international obligations.   Controversy over elections
in 1998 allowed Parliamentarians’ terms to expire in 1999 without successors
being elected.  The resulting void prevented the ratification of loans
critical to progress in healthcare and sanitation.   Furthermore, the CEP
must be named and in place in time for Haiti to honor its agreement with
CARICOM and the OAS to hold elections early in 2003.

  The current brief delay must not open the door to an extended one.  In July
2001, an OAS-brokered agreement resulted in the nomination of eight of nine
Electoral Councilors.  One party requested more time to negotiate, which was
granted at the OAS’ urging.  But the delaying party then imposed new
negotiating conditions, until the process, which had been almost complete,
collapsed completely.

  The process of escaping from the political crisis has been held hostage
before by a minority who wanted to avoid, at any costs, the holding of
elections.  Haiti’s agreements with the OAS and with CARICOM, as well as its
Constitution, contain mechanisms that allow the process to carry on despite
the non-cooperation of those given the privilege and duty of participating. 
Pursuant to the Initial Draft Accord, if one or more institutions or sectors
decline to participate, others can nominate a councilor in their places.  If
the negotiated process stalls completely, the Constitution would leave the
Government no choice but to proceed with the nomination of a Permanent
Electoral Council, through a process of local assemblies.