Originally: Enjeux et défis des prochaines élections indirectes
Since the adoption of the constitution in 1987, the indirect elections it prescribes for electing local government have only taken place once. That was under the first presidency of René Préval, at the end of 1998. Launched rather late, these elections were overtaken by the crisis that began with the resignation of Prime Minister Rosny Smarth and culminated in the exodus of the chamber of deputies in 1999. At each of the other times for holding these elections, the Provisional Electoral Commission fell apart? first, as in 1991 when its members were named to other prestigious posts, or as in 2000 by the forced resignation of some of its members and the meltdown of the rest of the commission. Nine years later, we still face the challenge of at last realizing this central vision of the constitution and even more, creating the basis for a new state. This is a state that has yet to see the light of day and emerge from the interminable transition which has turned into a nightmare. Will we at last be lucky? The answer to this question is far from clear.
The problem of the indirect elections
The principal problem facing the local indirect elections is that they lead toward a major political prize, the Permanent Electoral Council. With its term of nine years it will oversee the elections of at least two presidents, two chambers of deputies, and at least three partial renewals of the senate. It will be a determining institution in the country?s political life. In a country where alternation of office-holding has never been a principle easily accepted by those in power, the creation of such an institution is highly disquieting to some.
If we consider the overall results of the elections for the Assemblées de la Section communale (ASECs), we cannot find any one bloc or tendency attaining the sort of national majority needed to shape the makeup of the Permanent Electoral Council. We recall that the proportional system adopted by the CEP for the formation of the ASECs gave whatever ticket came in first in the communal section the majority in that section?s assembly. These tickets thus had the power to name the persons sent to the Municipal Assemblies. An overall analysis of the results of the ASEC elections leads one to believe that different political tendencies form the majorities in the municipal assemblies and therefore the departmental assemblies as well. These departmental assemblies are the ones who will send to the executive the list from which it will choose the Permanent Electoral Council.
If one speaks of political coloration, we are looking at a multi-colored Permanent Council where political pluralism would prevail. The same holds true for the nomination of the justices of the peace which will be in the hands of the municipal assemblies and of the district and appellate judges which will go through the departmental assemblies.
To facilitate the holding of the indirect elections the current government must accept that it won?t have a hegemonic control over the Permanent Electoral Council. It?s also necessary that the members of the current Provisional Electoral Council desire and work quickly towards passing on the baton to their successors. In case these two conditions are not met, one can expect numerous obstacles on the road ahead, or simply paralysis; they both amount to the same thing.
The challenges to holding the indirect elections
The elections to the territorial collectives concern not only the creation of local governmental organs (the assemblies and councils) but also the judges and as we have noted the Permanent Electoral Commission. Hence the necessity to have these elections soon enough to get a new CEP in time for the next elections for a third of the senate due in September-December 2007.
Article 110 of the current electoral decree mandates the CEP to hold the indirect elections in accordance with the existing legislation on the territorial collectives. The charter of the territorial collectives adopted and promulgated in five decrees by the recent transitional government defines the modalities and deadlines for the realization of the different stages of the indirect elections. In the event that they were applied the most optimistic scenario would be as follows:
- Swearing-in of the ASECs and their staffing: mid-February 2007
- Designation of the members of the municipal assemblies: end of February 2007
- Swearing in of the municipal assemblies and their staffing: mid-March 2007
- Election of members of the departmental assemblies: end of March 2007
- Swearing in of the departmental assemblies and their staffing: beginning of April 2007
- Formation of the interdepartmental council: mid-May 2007
- Making up the lists of candidates to the CEP: mid-July 2007
- Formation of the CEP by the three branches of the central government: end of July 2007
A CEP that began functioning at the beginning of August 2007, helped by a smooth transition of power and an electoral apparatus more or less up and running, could yet organize the senatorial elections sometime around October-December 2007. If we miss this rendezvous, in January 2008 the parliament will be amputated of a third of its members (ten senators). The decisions requiring an absolute majority of the members would then be very difficult. They would require sixteen of the remaining twenty senators.
For this optimistic scenario to be realized, the government of Mr. Alexis would have to accept that it is the decrees of the transitional government that provide the road map, at least for now, so that the process of the indirect elections could be initiated without delay. If new laws have to be passed first, the process will take many months before this can be done. Worse, if the parliament is to vote on bills proposed by the Ministry of the Interior, the indirect elections would be postponed sine die because these texts take into account neither the mechanisms nor the delays in organizing these elections. Whatever the faults of the existing decrees, they are the only way towards coherent realization of the indirect elections.
We should note in passing that the government and parliament should take the opportunity to pass a supplemental appropriation, abandoning the inadequate formula of a “Fund for Development of the Communes” and creating a “Fund for Development of the Territorial Collectives” and allocate the funds for the functioning of all the levels of the collectives.
It also follows that the government, the concerned institutions of the international community, the institutions specializing in electoral observation, and civil society all launch an informational and educational campaign about the indirect elections and the powers, rights, and duties of those to be so elected and how they relate to each other and to the other entities of the society and their mandates. This campaign should emphasize the importance of the delays in holding the elections for these different offices and specify the procedures that should be followed not only by those elected but by all the citizens.
It is essential that the CEP, the government, the parliament, the actors in the international community, the political parties, and Haitian civil society concentrate seriously on the preparation and launching without delay of the indirect elections. The mandate of the existing CEP can only be interpreted as requiring their realization. The consequences of not holding them would be highly negative for the advancement of democracy, political normalization, and reinforcement of Haiti?s institutions. The first casualty would be the next senatorial elections and the expiration of the term of a third of the senate.
From the institutional and legal point of view, the country would once more be dragged far down the path of inconstitutionality, informality of government and thus arbitrariness. The municipal councils in the absence of the municipal assemblies would remain dysfunctional or at best function sans involvement of the concerned citizens. The state would then have a justification for not allocating the funds necessary to provide the services to a population in great need. The justices of the peace and the district and appellate judges would not have the sanction of the assemblies for either their nomination or reappointment. The justice system would continue its degradation with its corollary, the reign of impunity and the resulting harvest of horrible crimes. The country would confirm its status as a failing state and the foreign presence would be imposed for a long time in the face of our incapacity to properly order our own affairs.