Excerpt from telephone interview with Frandley Denis Julien, senatorial candidate for the North and former opposition activist; by announcer Rotchild Francois Jnr; monitored in progress; broadcast live by Haitian Metropole radio on 11 November
Julien: One of the most important things that we expect from the Haitians in the diaspora is respect for the law. We expect them to spread respect for these values abroad, respect for the law and principles. And we are sorry that some of them want to participate in the elections, despite the constitutional interdiction. This would be too bad for the diaspora as a whole and the country.
Francois: Would you say that presidential candidates Samir Mourra and Dumarsais Mecene Simeus should just quit and get out of the electoral competition?
Julien: I think that the diaspora should enter politics through the front door, not through the window. They should fight to change things and change the legislation. But they should not try to come through the window. It would be very bad for the diaspora, actually, and they should understand it.
Francois: If you are elected senator of the republic, do you think that this nationality issue is something that should be debated in assemblies?
Julien: Absolutely. It is a priority. I think that we have a lot of Haitians in the diaspora who are well trained. This country needs these people, and we should allow them to participate, to come and make their contribution here. I think this is one of the first priorities that should be in the legislative agenda of all candidates.
Francois: And you really think that this is a necessity today?
Julien: Definitely. It is a necessity. And I think that we should deplore the fact that the Haitian laws–the constitution of 1987– is a constitution that encourages exclusion. I am personally against the participation of these people today simply because it is not constitutional, it is not legal. And we must deplore it. We do so because, for a country that is so poor, with a high rate of illiteracy, we are now telling people in the diaspora who are competent and who are useful where they are in foreign lands that we are sorry, we know that you are competent, but we do not want you. And it is just because the law here is a partisan thing. We have made our laws for ourselves, and we do not allow Haitians from overseas to come here to participate in things. It is in fact this image that we are projecting. This image of this small group that closed all the doors after the fall of the Duvalier regime so that the Haitians that could make good contributions may not be able to do so. So, this being said, I think that the law should be changed. But as long as the law remains as it is now, these people cannot participate, and I deplore this.
Francois: You are a candidate for the Senate for the Department of the North. All over the country, there are a lot of candidates for the legislative elections. Do you think that it will be easy to develop a majority in the Senate of the Republic?
Julien: I do not think so. I think that we have got to have a majority, but we will have to create this. This is why today I am part of a group of other candidates for the Senate and the parliament. We are now contemplating what we call a caucus of the provinces. This caucus, if we manage to create it, will be made up of all the elected representatives of all the provinces of Haiti so that we may be able to carry out the decentralization project. It is a project that is very important for us. I think this is the best way to create a majority in the next parliament. The Senate, for example, will have 27 senators from the provinces out of 30 senators. So, I think that this is a force that we should count on, because otherwise it will be very difficult to create a majority in the parliament. The caucus of the provinces, I believe, will be the best force that we can count on. Moreover, it will be something positive for democracy, because these people will come from different political parties. There will not be a unique party. So, it will be like a melting pot, where all sorts of ideals and visions of the state can be found.
Francois: And would you say that the chances for the establishment of this eventual caucus in the Senate are good?
Julien: Not in the Senate, but in the parliament. Because there are a lot of candidates for the parliament and political parties in the different departments that we are discussing this with, and they are very positive about this issue. So, I believe that this will be done.
Francois: Do you have any fear with regard to the president who will be elected, and are you concerned about relations between the parliament and the elected president?
Julien: Yes, indeed. Because I see the return of former Lavalas president Rene Preval, who has not yet uttered a word. And this is a sign of disrespect for the electorate, because a candidate has got to sell his program. If a candidate does not talk to the people, then that is a way for him to say: I have no respect for you, and I am going to use violence to access power; my partisans are going to use all sorts of violent means to intimidate you so that you will not go to the polls election day. It is a very eloquent manner of expressing disrespect for the people. So, I think that the former opposition to the Lavalas power should understand that they should present a unique candidature. I think that there are dangers in our camp, too, unfortunately. Because it is certain that in the plan for the fight against Lavalas, it was literally a situation where the nation was against the dictatorship. But this does not mean that all those that were in our camp were democrats. So, I think that people should understand this today. They should forget about themselves.
My deepest fear today is that we are in the process of choosing the lesser of two evils. And I think that due to the crisis that we are facing today, the country cannot afford to choose the lesser of two evils.
People’s attitude should not be that, they will vote for somebody because by so doing they are voting against Preval. The political class must sit together so that we may have the best possible candidates. The former opposition should present a unique, quality candidate.
Francois]: Do you think this is possible?
Julien: I think it is. But we need to have in mind the national expediencies. And to me, today’s expediency is the environment. I support Micha Gaillard and Victor Benoit when they say that we have got to present a unique candidate of quality.
Francois: But why this fear of former President Preval who is now a presidential candidate?
Julien: It is not that Preval is extremely popular. No, this is not the reason at all. The thing is that the Latortue government has failed so much that a lot of conditions that existed under the Aristide government still exist. Because the Lavalas party still has a lot of armed gangs around. And all of these gangs are still operating with complete impunity. So, these people will use violence in the upcoming elections. If nothing is done today to correct this situation, I can already see the violence coming. Besides, in the pro-Preval demonstration in Port-au-Prince last week, Preval’s partisans used blind violence. And I think that they will also use violence in the upcoming elections. And I fear that people from other parties, the partisans from other parties, with the intensification of the violence on the eve of the elections, they might be compelled to stay home. And then the Lavalas partisans will be able to use violence to retake power.
Another thing that people should realize is that, Lavalas is a political party that has reliable supporters. These people have been in power for 15 years and were able to allow lots of people to get rich and kill with complete impunity. So, they definitely have faithful partisans. They have political supporters, while the former opposition now has a vote that is divided due to the high number of candidates. So, the former opposition needs to understand that we have got to fight to prevent Lavalas from using violence in the upcoming elections. But at the same time, they need to understand the necessity for them to present a unique candidate of quality.
We should take time to get together to present a candidate of quality, so that a vote for this candidate will not be just a vote against Preval, but also a positive vote. We need to know that we will vote for someone who can develop the country and offer us a five-year term of quality. And I think that we can then be sure that we will be able to finally get out of the woods.
Francois: It is possible that a candidate will win the election in the first round, just as it is possible to have a second round with two candidates on the ground. So, the political drive now is the unity of the democratic forces. But who do you think would be able to take this initiative? Because all the candidates seem to think that they have the best chance of winning the election. So who do you think could take this initiative?
Julien: Actually, what I think is that we need to count on the groups, on the existing groups or regroupings that existed before. In the face of this evident threat of the return of fascism in Haiti today, I think that we need to stop resorting to demagogy. This means that there are groups that were very active in politics and that were actually involved in active politics, without ever admitting it. So, these groups need to come clean. For instance, the Democratic Convergence had proved what it could do, and this regrouping could start the consultations. If I were still part of the Group of 184 , I would try to get them to play this role. Because what people should understand now is that there is the threat of the return of the dictatorship. And each time there is a situation of dictatorship, it is the nation that should stand against it.
So, we should not listen to these people when they say that they will not get involved in politics. It is just bullshit. Today, there is the threat of the return of dictatorship. We have to be courageous. I think that what matters in politics is not those who say today, but it is rather the judgment of the posterity that will come in 70 years, in 80, 100, or 200 years that matters. Therefore, I think the G-184, other groups of civil society, and the Democratic Convergence should get together now to define a strategy.
Francois: Thank you, Julien, senatorial candidate for the North, for being our guest this morning to discuss the electoral issue. Thank you. Have a nice day and a good weekend.
Julien: Thank you, Rotchild, and same to you.