The external sanctions are fully consistent with the Haitian voters’ own choices in the presidential elections of 2010, 2015, and 2016 when they repeatedly rejected known bad actors in favor of those with clean records who professed the national cause. Whether these candidates were actually worthy of such confidence is another question, but the voters’ action at the polls in favor of probity is unmistakable. They also consistently resisted those who sought to gain office by electoral fraud.
In 2010, the chief protagonists were President Préval’s son-in-law, former president Leslie Manigat’s widow, and a flamboyant showman-turned-politician. In the election of 2006, the Haitian electorate had shown its preference for continuity and institutional stability by favoring the two former presidents in the race, Préval and Leslie Manigat. These two qualified for a runoff election, but Manigat was eliminated by mob pressure and a manipulation of the ballots. In protest, Manigat’s wife, Mirlande, resigned as senator-elect from the West Department. Since that election, the electorate had greatly soured on Préval and Mirlande Manigat had emerged as an acerbic critic and was remembered for her principled resignation, a self-abnegation rare in Haitian politics. She swamped Préval’s son-in-law Jude Céléstin in the November 2010 voting, with showman Michel Martelly and Céléstin being tabulated as second and third respectively, virtually tied. While Céléstin had the advantage of being a two-term president’s protégé, he was also suspected in the murder of an official who had uncovered corruption in the government agency Céléstin headed. Also, Préval had waited until the last possible moment in the hope of amending the constitution to qualify himself for a third term, and only put his son-in-law’s name in on the last day. All these factors came together in the decisive vote for Manigat, which put the Haitian electorate’s imprimatur on the cause of probity in Haitian politics. The antics that then immediately ensued only ratified their choice.
The tabulation center was placing Céléstin third, just behind Martelly, because it had found a number of his votes to be fraudulent. Préval got wind of this and pressured the electoral officials to restore enough of these fraudulent votes to barely put Céléstin ahead of Martelly, which put Céléstin rather than Martelly in the second round. The United States had gone along with the 2006 manipulation in favor of Préval in order to get the mobs off the streets, but this time it announced its insistence on a clean vote. (The United States pays most of the costs of Haitian elections.) The Haiti Democracy Project’s electoral observers had just provided photographic evidence of ballot-forging in favor of Préval’s candidate in a regional election, and had brought the documents to the State Department. We then obtained, in Haiti, the database of the entire presidential vote. Database inquiries quickly identified the questionable votes reintroduced for Céléstin. At this, the State Department sent its own mission of statisticians, which reported even more fraudulent votes than we had. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Haiti herself to press the findings home. Céléstin was eliminated. The electorate’s vote against corruption was upheld.
This example was repeated in spades in both the 2015 and 2016 elections. The protagonists and the results were nearly the same. There was an even greater effort to reverse the electors’ verdict through fraud, which only brought an even more decisive verdict from the electors when they got to vote again.
In 2015 it was Céléstin in person versus Martelly’s stand-in. Céléstin’s reputation had not improved in the interim, while Martelly’s stand-in was a complete unknown. That was enough for the voters, who gave Martelly’s man 32 percent to Céléstin’s 25 percent. They didn’t know whom they were getting, but at least he was not known for violence and corruption. But as in 2010, the next shoe to drop would be electoral fraud to overturn the voters’ will. Unable to penetrate the electoral commission this time, the election deniers sent up a hue and cry that for sheer volume put Donald Trump’s later efforts to shame. Like him, they had no proof. The European Union observers, the OAS, and the Haiti Democracy Project’s own observers all found the vote to be sound. Among Haitian domestic organizations the election-deniers had more luck. They got the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights to denounce the election, although that organization’s internal tally found it to be satisfactory. Playing on the demoralized public’s receptivity to charges of fraud, they actually overturned the election. Over a million votes went into the dumpster. The country would now limp along for over a year with an unelected president — since sanctioned by Canada for corruption and criminal violence — until the election could be re-run. This time Martelly’s man improved to 56 percent, winning on the first round. In this way the Haitian electorate decisively reconfirmed their vote for the candidate deemed less corrupt, and strongly rebuked those who had disrespected their vote.
Is it any wonder, then, that the electorate has been denied ever since the opportunity to vote? Instead it was once more the senate refusing to vote the electoral law, once more the president failing to name a credible commission, and the corruptionists finally assassinating a president who had won by 56 percent. The Haitian electorate’s verdict has been repeatedly scorned, its effort to clean house repeatedly denied.
Foreign sanctions do no more than implement the oft-expressed will of the Haitian people. And if the foreigners help Haiti get to elections, the voters will likely smite the corruptionists once again.