Summary of interview in French of James Morrell on Radio Energie, Boston, July 7, 2010.
Q Will elections be held this November?
A Always hard to predict in Haiti when elections will actually be held. During the two presidential terms of René Préval, no election has been held on time.
Q Will the Haiti Democracy Project send observers?
A The Haiti Democracy Project sent observers to all three elections in 2006 and to the senatorial elections in April 2009. The majority of our observers were Haitian-Americans. They bring the advantage of knowing the terrain, the language, the mores. Yet they are objective and nonpartisan. Our mission in 2006 was the largest mission of Haitian-American observers ever to go to Haiti. We were delighted to be able to issue positive reports on the 2006 elections.
To observe an election in an ethical and professional manner involves making a judgment in advance whether in principle a credible process is being attempted and whether the exercise is not already predetermined. Any corps of observers which fails to make this judgment risks lending its name to a rigged election. In June 2000, the electoral mission of the Organization of American States headed by Sen. Orlando Marville had to make exactly that sort of judgment. I was a member of that mission. We had observed a large turnout of voters in legislative elections on May 21, 2000. The results while favoring the ruling party were pluralistic. Then President Préval, supposedly acting under in the influence of ex-President Aristide, arranged that opposition votes for senatorial candidates not be counted, assuring a virtual monopoly for the ruling party. Our mission insisted that they be counted. When this appeal was brushed aside, the OAS withdrew its mission and refused to observe either the second round or the subsequent presidential election.
Q Haitian senators have sent letters to their counterparts in the United States and Europe asking that funds not be voted for these elections.
A The senators have grounds for their appeal. The appeal would be more effective if delivered in person by a credible, well-organized delegation of senators. The senators lost this capacity in 2008 when at the behest of President Préval they illegally expelled one of their most capable members elected in 2006, Sen. Rudolph Boulos. After this and similar shenanigans, I don’t know how seriously a delegation of these senators would be taken in Washington today.
Q Should the Haitians boycott the elections in November 2010, if they are held?
A There is already too much foreign interference in these elections for me, as an American, to comment there. I would merely point out that at the beginning of the year, after the earthquake, highly-qualified members of the civil society recommended leaving the elections to an interim government after Préval’s scheduled departure in February 2011. As reasons they gave (1) Préval’s record in manipulating elections, (2) the difficulty and distractions of elections during recovery from a disaster of that scale, and (3) the historical record of interim governments in staging credible elections. One must note, too, that was not the earthquake, it was Préval’s decisions and management since 2006, that delayed first the senatorial elections due in 2007 then the legislative elections due last November.