This chapter assesses these four sets of elections. Following an overview
of electoral politics in Haiti between 1987 and 1998, the discussion considers
the successes and failures of electoral observation in this case, with
special attention to observers' emphasis on security and technical assistance
and their relative lack of emphasis on conflict mediation. The third section
addresses the aspect of electoral observation that participants, political
parties, and foreign governments most often associate with transitional
elections: the contribution that foreign observers make (or, in this case,
did not fully make) to encouraging transparency. The chapter concludes
with an evaluation of the role that international actors have played in
Haiti's democratization process.
But because Haiti did not present a Communist threat, neither the Carter administration (19771981) nor the first Reagan administration (198185) gave sustained attention to Haiti's human rights abuses or election fraud.(2) However, during President Reagan's second term (198589), U.S. policy sought to promote reform among all of the United States' allies in Latin America, and these reforms included holding elections. When President Jean-Claude Duvalier (19711986) resisted holding competitive elections and his forces killed protesters in northern Haiti,(3) the United States halted aid to the Haitian government. Some Duvalierists and the Haitian army, long controlled by the Duvaliers, were anxious to remove the "sultan" and establish a traditional authoritarian regime with a civilian facade. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)(4) and U.S. embassy in Haiti(5) covertly supported both a popular revolt that began in northern Haiti in late 1985 and the February 1986 bloodless coup d'état that ousted Jean-Claude Duvalier. The coup was led by Duvalier's armed forces chief, General Henri Namphy, who as head of the succeeding army-dominated transitional government promised to hold competitive elections in the near future, in return for the reinstatement of U.S. military aid to the country.(6)
Haiti's transition from Duvalier's sultanistic regime has been turbulent,
with at least a dozen governments coming to power since the 1986 déchoucaj
("uprooting"). Most of these changes occurred extra-constitutionally.
Although Haiti's social movements have never been stronger, its political
and civil societies have lacked sufficient autonomy to sustain a democratic
transition on their own. The Haitian state is dysfunctional and corrupt.
Nor has the rule of law ever been established for the rural population
or the urban poor. Without effective foreign electoral observation, it
is doubtful whether democracy can be installed in Haiti because its ruling
elites have consistently and violently demonstrated their intention to
retain their economic and political privileges at any cost.
On election day, Macoutes lined the streets, intimidating would-be voters.
The provisional government, meanwhile, reinforced the Macoutes' message
by broadcasting threats over the radio. Still the people lined up to vote
despite the violence and even after Namphy had canceled the election.
The approximately five hundred foreign observers who were present (mainly
on short-term missions, with links to Haiti-centered nongovernmental organizations
[NGOs]) failed to draw public attention to the fact that Namphy had no
right to cancel the elections.(12)
The UN and OAS were present throughout the 199091 election campaign in Haiti.(14) As in Nicaragua in 1989, the OAS team was authorized and organized more quickly than the UN mission was, and the OAS played a constructive role in advising the CEP on rewriting the country's election law. Even prior to formal authorization from the UN General Assembly in late summer 1990, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was closely involved in advising the CEP on voter registration planning (no small issue in Haiti, where roads are often unnavigable). UN consultants arranged for the world's first ballots with photos of the presidential candidates, and, even though there was no formal authorization for a peacekeeping mission, UN security monitors were deployed alongside civilians from both the UN and the OAS. In Haiti, then, the UN developed the first security and technical assistance mission in electoral observation history.
The only other international group with a campaign presence in Haiti during 199091 was the combined mission of the Carter Center and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, whose sole resident staffer was based in Port-au-Prince. Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and other prominent members of the Carter CenterNDI delegation visited periodically during the campaign. Carter mediated several security issues with Provisional President Trouillot, while U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle personally admonished the high command of the Haitian armed forces to prevent campaign violence and cooperate with the UN security monitors in formulating and implementing electoral security plans.
Initially scheduled for June 30, 1990, the vote was first postponed
until September 30, 1990, and then again until December 16, 1990.(15)
Funds to support organization of the elections came from the United States,
Germany, Canada, and, after Jean-Bertrand Aristide entered the contest
in October 1990 (just before the filing deadline), France. Pre-election
problems included two strikes by CEP data-entry employees. As a result,
national voter registration lists were not available until the day before
the election, rendering them virtually useless on election day. But the
fact that the CEP was able to organize an election at all represented what
diplomats and foreign observers saw as "a miracle by Haitian standards."
According to Jimmy Carter:
The main reason for the success of this election is the absolute commitment of the CEP to make the process get as far as it has. . . . The other foreign observers will help, but they are secondary to all the effort that occurred before [emphasis added] (Carter press conference, Port-au-Prince, December 14, 1990).When the December 16 elections finally took place, the Provisional Electoral Council paid no attention to the chaos that erupted outside polling stations, and it basically ignored all but the presidential race.(16) Many of the mayoral and local council elections scheduled for the same day were not held; others were held, but with little effort to ensure a verified process or to control fraud.(17) In the presidential race, Aristide defeated nearly a dozen candidates, winning with an estimated 67 percent of the vote. The National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD)--which had nominated Aristide for the presidency in 1990 but from which Aristide effectively separated before taking office--ultimately won significant victories in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, although it failed to win a majority in either house.
During his first administration (FebruarySeptember 1991), Aristide appointed members of his Lavalas ("The Flood") movement(18) to the mayoralties that had not been put to a vote in the 1990 election, leading some analysts to accuse him of abusing his power. He also failed to name new electoral commission leaders to replace those who had been appointed to key diplomatic posts.(19) And he did not establish a permanent electoral commission composed of party representatives, as mandated by the constitution.
A coup turned Aristide out of office in September 1991 and sent him
into exile. For the next three years, he lobbied international leaders
to support his return to Haiti (and to the presidency). Both Presidents
George Bush and Bill Clinton agreed that this step was necessary for the
"restoration of democracy" in Haiti, even though the country has never
really had a functioning democracy. An international economic embargo between
1991 and 1994 failed to break the armed forces' grip on power. In the end,
U.S. military forces (acting under UN Security Council resolution 940)
landed in Haiti on September 17, 1994.(20)
The U.S. government viewed these problems as "only technical" and encouraged the opposition parties to continue participating. Foreign observers, however, did not agree with this assessment. The International Republican Institute (IRI) concluded that there was a "nationwide breakdown of the electoral process . . . a total absence of safeguards against fraud, tampering, disappearances, and destruction of election materials" (IRI 1995). Robert Pastor, then director of the Carter Center's Latin America program, observed vote manipulation firsthand and called the 1995 elections the worst he had ever witnessed.(21) The Provisional Electoral Council (the sixth CEP) declared candidates of the Lavalas party the winners of five seats in the Senate and one in the Chamber of Deputies, even though it was clear to most analysts that they had not garnered a majority of the votes. Foreign observers from IRI and the Carter Center considered the CEP to be blatantly biased in favor of Aristide and his political allies, and they pressed the CEP president to resign. He did so, but his replacement was another Aristide partisan. In part for this reason, most non-Lavalas political parties boycotted subsequent rounds of elections.
A second round of elections was scheduled for August 16, 1995. These
elections were for offices that had not been put to the ballot in June,
along with races that had been run in June but needed to be
rerun because of irregularities. The outcome was chaos. Most "mainstream" opposition parties boycotted the process.(22) Only about one hundred foreign observers were present, most of whom were sponsored by the United States--and hence not viewed as impartial by many in Haitian political society. For example, observers from the U.S. embassy were viewed as biased in favor of Aristide, and observers from the International Republican Institute were thought to be biased against him. All in all, this election did little to boost public confidence in Haiti's electoral process.There were fewer problems on September 17, 1995, in the second make-up round for legislative seats and elections for various local offices. The relative orderliness of these contests was due largely to the smaller field of candidates; Haiti's twenty-two opposition parties boycotted this round of elections, though some candidates again participated. Turnout was under 15 percent in most parliamentary districts. The Lavalas Political Organization (Organisation Politique Lavalas, OPL, formed by Aristide in 1991) faction in the pro-Aristide coalition won the most seats, though Aristide was soon to abandon OPL.
The IRI gave reluctant praise to the 1995 presidential election, calling it a "crucial marker in the nation's road toward democratic government and improved socio-economic outlook" (IRI 1996). The official U.S. observer delegation, led by former NDI president and current administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development Brian Atwood, called the election a "crucial milestone in Haiti's progress toward an enduring democratic order" (Farah 1995). Sadly, however, neither forecast has been borne out.
One key element missing in 1995 was a permanent electoral commission
institutionally equipped to implement elections without systematic loss
of ballots and capable of engendering confidence among the contending parties
that the electoral process would be administered in a competent and politically
neutral fashion. Unfortunately, Préval never pushed for establishing
a permanent electoral commission. Without a functioning legislative majority,
he found it impossible to do so.
Despite the naming of a new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP-VIII, in effect) and foreign funding to the CEP of $5.5 million, the April 1997 elections suffered from the same level of administrative problems as occurred in the elections of 1990 and 1995.(27) For example, despite years of complaints about this CEP practice, the first-round outcomes were announced without any accompanying statistical information, which made it impossible for independent observers to verify the results. IRI concluded that there had been a "continuation of a significant breakdown in the ballot and result collection and consolidation process, including tampering with tally sheets" (IRI 1997).
As of July 1998, the second round of 1997 elections still had not taken place, and the chances for ending the political parties' boycott of the next round of elections (scheduled for late 1998) were low. As in 1995, the CEP had announced that several sets of elections would have to be re-run because of admitted administrative failures. This admission was offered as a concession to the boycotting opposition, but it appeared unlikely to have any significant effect.
Haiti remains immersed in political crisis. The country has been without
an elected government since June 1997, when Prime Minister Rosny Smarth
resigned. Three of President Préval's nominations to fill the post
of prime minister were rejected by the legislature when it proved impossible
to obtain bicameral approval. As of July 1998, only seven of Smarth's ministers
remained in office, bringing the government below the constitutional minimum
of ten. Resolution of this impasse requires either President Préval
or the CEP to order that another election be held so that a new parliament
could be installed.
Foreign involvement in Haiti has focused primarily on ensuring free
elections to legitimate a nominally democratic government.(30)
The United Nations, United States, and other foreign actors have invested,
according to press reports, approximately U.S.$3 billion for the humanitarian
intervention undertaken in Haiti since 1994. Approximately 60 percent of
this amount went for military expenditures (even though no armed resistance
was ever mounted), and another $50 million was spent directly on observing,
advising, and mediating in elections in 1987, 19901991, 1995, and
1997. The U.S. government has been the largest donor and, hence, the most
influential actor in structuring the electoral missions. It financed the
OAS missions in their entirety and provided a significant share of financing
for the Carter Center, NDI, and IRI missions. The United States also covered
much of the UN's expenses.
Misuse of state resources, though less prevalent than in other countries, is grounds for substantial concern. Each successive CEP has written its own set of election laws, which tend to be arbitrary and often beyond the limits set by the constitution. Coordinated vote fraud is probably not pervasive, but it still takes place in some regions.(31) Ordinarily, complaints about election irregularities like these would be addressed through an electoral commission or a legislature. Because Haiti has neither a functioning legislature nor a permanent electoral commission, it has a greater need for outside mediation. But Haiti's history of foreign intervention and its domestic sensitivities predispose political actors to resist anything they perceive as outside interference, including mediation efforts.
No one has been able to exert "soft power" to mediate Haiti's numerous campaign and post-election disputes, something that would complement the "hard power" of the UN and OAS electoral observation teams. Would-be mediators find that one instrument that serves them well in other countries--that is, observers' ability to publicize internationally any irregularities they witness--is of little use in Haiti. With few exceptions, Haitian political parties and election authorities care little about outsiders' accusations of improper conduct.
Even former president Jimmy Carter, who had been a very successful mediator in transfers of power in other countries, was hampered in his mediation efforts in Haiti. Carter met with Aristide prior to the December 1990 elections and encouraged him to accept the results, whatever they might be, as long as the election was credible. However, rumor holds that Aristide interpreted Carter to mean that he should accept the election of Marc Bazin, whom many Haitians perceived to be the United States' favored candidate.(32) In the last press conference of his campaign, held on December 14, 1990, Aristide reiterated in four different languages (English, French, Haitian Creole, and Spanish) that he would not accept any result that did not show him as the winner. Confident of victory, Aristide was convinced that he could be defeated only through fraud. He clearly misunderstood Carter's comments and efforts by other foreign observers to prepare all of the candidates to accept any credible result. An Aristide adviser asked that the following be reported to the OAS:
It was not diplomatic or impartial of Carter to say, "all candidates should accept the results of a fair election." Aristide has not accepted the verdict of anyone about what are fair elections. We won't play that type of game (communication to the author).
The post1997 electoral impasse might have been another moment for
foreign mediation, at least by nonU.S. personnel. (Too many of Haiti's
political leaders felt ambivalence or hostility toward the United States
because of its "occupation" for U.S. mediators to have played a constructive
role.) The OAS tried, but OAS Mission Chief Colin Granderson was not successful
in producing an agreement between Pierre-Charles and the CEP that would
have brought the OPL back into the electoral process (Haiti Info
The "Helmke plan" included the first UN mission to Haiti in 1990, which focused on technical assistance and the "verification" of results. Both UN personnel and contractors were closely involved with the fourth Provisional Electoral Council (CEP-IV). Another U.S.financed NGO, the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), provided procurement services and additional training of poll watchers. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) office in Port-au-Prince commissioned the UN to audit CEP-IV's disbursement of $4 million.(34)
One very serious allegation regarding foreign observers' performance of their advisory role concerns the date set for the 1990 elections. President Eartha Pascal Trouillot signed an election law (promulgated by CEP-IV on July 9, 1990) that set the date for September 30, 1990. CEP-IV subsequently postponed the elections until December. When Jean-Paul Poirier, one of two UN consultants who had also worked with CEP-I for the 1987 elections, stated that there was no need to delay the elections, especially given that the voter registration planning was already in place, both consultants were summarily fired.(35) Politicians from traditional parties, who had preferred the earlier date, alleged that the elections were delayed so that Aristide could enter the race.(36) The traditional parties' belief that foreign observers connived to achieve this result estranged them from Aristide in subsequent years.
The UN continued to fulfill its technical assistance function until
1997, supported by contributions from USAID. However, because the CEP was
clearly not able to implement the UN's recommendations for administrative
reform, the UN mission found itself caught between its role as adviser
and its role as critic. Instead of trying to reconcile the two roles, the
UN decided in 1997 to terminate its relationship with the CEP. With this
key external actor no longer present, the United States was no longer willing
to impose monitored elections, despite the Clinton administration's desire
to claim a foreign policy success in Haiti.
Between the presidential and first-round legislative elections in December 1990 and Aristide's inauguration on February 7, 1991, OAS and UN security forces monitored four additional legislative and local elections. They also contended with an attempted coup, several assassination attempts against the president-elect, armed movements, and so on.
The 1995 elections were secured by the deployment in Haiti of 6,000
foreign troops, to supplement the 5,000member transitional police
force. In 1997, the only security came from the new national Haitian police
force, supplemented by about 1,000 foreign security personnel. The consequences
of this reduced security presence were severe, particularly in remote areas;
at least a dozen people were murdered over the course of the 1997 election
Foreign election observers must choose between one of two sets of criteria. They can either apply universal standards for free and fair elections, or they can choose a standard tailored to the level of electoral development prevailing in a particular country. In Haiti, as in some past elections in Nicaragua and El Salvador, foreign observers have often evaluated electoral processes without explicitly stating the criteria they are employing, relying instead on a pragmatic approach that can bend to the exigencies of the moment.
Some observers argue that a country's electoral capacity must inform their evaluation of that country's electoral process. They are willing to excuse shortcomings in the belief that holding unfair elections is preferable to holding none at all. Other observers insist that a country should not hold elections until the process can be sufficiently free that the opposition can openly contest power on equal terms with political incumbents. Because election observers differ in their perspectives, they also differ in the standards they apply. The former viewpoint predominated in Haiti in 1990, but the latter came to the fore among international observers in Haiti in 1995 and 1997.
In 1990, only one hour after the polls closed, the UN/OAS teams' quick count--based on a sample of a mere one hundred tally sheets from precincts--projected a two-thirds majority for Aristide. Aristide's landslide victory totally eclipsed the simultaneous elections for both houses of Parliament and several local posts, to the point that no local capacity for vote counting developed and some 300,000 ballots were lost after the tallies were concluded. Because the UN was responsible for advising the CEP and the Haitian armed forces, it made no public comment on this matter prior to Aristide's inauguration in February 1991. This was a crucial mistake because no plans were made to prevent the error from being repeated in 1995, when most of Haiti's political society abandoned the electoral process after similar numbers of ballots were again lost.
Election observers are most effective at verifying presidential votes, in which they need only determine who received a majority or which two candidates will compete in a runoff. Congressional elections are more complex and require more verification: at least one parallel count or quick count per party in a national party-list system, and one per constituency in plurality systems. Because Haiti has both single-member districts in the Chamber of Deputies and staggered, single-member Senate elections, it is very difficult for observers to verify legislative election results.
It is not surprising, therefore, that observers of the 199091, 1995, and 1997 elections could not quell suspicions of election fraud or incompetence in the management of the electoral process. Domestic and foreign actors chose to overlook questionable practices in 199091, but they did allege incompetence and fraud in 1995 and 1997. Even so, no serious actions were taken to improve electoral administration--either in fact or in public perception--in subsequent elections, which suggests that most citizens did not care enough to support the concerns of politicians worried about electoral administration. As a result, international observers in Haiti have produced relatively little in the areas of political learning and improved electoral administration. The fact that foreign observers overlooked some irregularities in 199091 (which seemed forgivable at the time) was actually a disservice to Haiti's fledgling electoral process. Placing immediate faith in the UN/OAS quick count opened the door to other breaches of Haiti's election law, which requires a full ballot count.
Because there were no reliable precinct tally sheets available following the 1990 legislative elections, Aristide's followers viewed as illegitimate the legislature that was eventually installed, and they refused to submit some Cabinet appointees for confirmation or to consent to a vote of confidence.(37) In August 1991, Aristide partisans threatened to lynch legislators who tried to dissolve the prime minister's cabinet, refusing to recognize these "elected" legislators as part of Haiti's democratic system. One can infer that the questionable legitimacy of the two houses of Parliament contributed to Aristide's extra-constitutional approach to government.
Although foreign observers have overseen four major sets of elections in Haiti, Haitian elections are still not minimally free and fair. Given this state of affairs, why did observers withhold criticism in 1990? The fact that the 1990 elections were held without major outbursts of violence was in itself a victory, predisposing observers to overlook gross irregularities in the legislative portion of the electoral process. For example, none of the dozens of reports written by foreign observers about the 199091 elections noted that the voter registration lists were not prepared on time or that electoral districts ranged in size from 14,092 to 122,973 people (author interviews with UN personnel).(38)
In both 1990 and 1995, the United Nations' evaluation was colored by the fact that it was acting as both technical adviser to and evaluator of the Provisional Electoral Council. And in 1995 and 1997, delegations from the U.S. embassy were inclined to defend the elections in light of the United States' huge financial and political investment in the undertaking.
Meanwhile, two significant errors in the IRI's reports on Haiti's 1995 election indicate this organization's bias in the opposite direction. The first was the IRI's criticism of the CEP for "miscalculations of population size," even though there were no reliable census data on which the CEP could have more accurately estimated the population. The second was the observation that "the legal foundation for these elections was a Presidential decree that subverted the legislative process," despite the fact that no legislature had been in session after the terms of those deputies elected in 1991 expired in 1994. In particular, the IRI report criticized President Aristide for ignoring a 1995 election law passed by Congress and for issuing his own alternative law by decree; in fact, no such law was ever enacted by the Haitian legislature, for the simple reason that no parliament was in session until those elections were completed in late 1995. Moreover, the IRI missed the most important issue: the question of a provisional, rather than a permanent, electoral council.
The OAS observer mission in 1990 was also fraught with administrative
problems and inter-ethnic and racial tensions. The OAS budget, funded by
the United States, was only a quarter of that of the United Nations, too
small to develop an effective administrative structure or to support a
permanent French-speaking staff. The OAS delegation's leadership, drawn
from Elections Quebec, was somewhat hostile toward the U.S. observers representing
the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and this undermined their effectiveness
Yet the view among Latin Americanists that "demonstration elections" (Herman and Brodhead 1984) and "electoralism" (Karl 1986) promoted from outside can do harm as well as good also holds true to some extent in Haiti. The essentially electoralist policies pursued by the United Nations and the United States in Haiti in 1990 did not provide for any openness about electoral shortcomings. Nor did they provide for human rights monitoring during election campaigns. The report by Haiti's Commission for Truth and Justice was prepared hastily and superficially by Latin American standards; completed after only a few weeks of interviewing in the summer of 1995, it still has not been publicly released.(40) There has been no public listing or purge of human rights violators in the military, and former Tontons Macoutes and demobilized military personnel often threaten the exercise of civil and political rights with impunity. "Activists" from the Duvalier dictatorship were barred from participating in politics from 1987 to 1997 based on constitutional Article 291 rather than the recommendations of the Truth Commission report. This action excluded these individuals from any national reconciliation process and encouraged them to engage in disloyal politics, including the 1991 coup against Aristide.
International involvement produced only one respectable voter turnout, in 1990. In successive elections, turnout ranged between 5 and 25 percent of registered voters, so low that it undercut popular perceptions of these elections' legitimacy. Similarly, international efforts on other fronts also produced few tangible results. Unsuccessful U.S. efforts to mediate an end to the 1997 election boycott produced intransigence in Parliament. Despite repeated visits by U.S. officials like former national security adviser Anthony Lake, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, and even U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Haiti has not been able to confirm a replacement for Prime Minister Rosny Smarth, who resigned in June 1997 over the CEP's failure to correct election irregularities. The only significant mediation effort involving political parties occurred in the spring of 1998 under the auspices of the IRI. However, some of the twenty Haitian parties participating in the IRIsponsored pact were linked to terrorism and/or the Duvalier dictatorship.(41) It will require much more effective mediation to bring the country's disparate political parties back into electoral competition for the scheduled 1998 congressional elections and the general elections in the year 2000.
Despite the United States' substantial investment in the assistance and oversight of Haiti's four sets of post-Duvalier elections (about $1 per voter for electoral administration, and between $2 and $4 per voter for international observation), electoral administration remains a serious problem. This country case suggests that credible elections in traditional societies that lack functioning institutions (especially political parties and NGOs) must sometimes be limited to the simplest contests of all, the direct election of a president and proportional representation elections for the legislature. Legislative and local races often cannot be independently verified; in the absence of either a rationalized bureaucratic state or an autonomous political or civil society, the task is too complex. Haiti's electoral councils have not performed well, even considering the difficult circumstances under which they operate. There are too many similarities between them and other inefficient, corruption-ridden state agencies to make the CEPs a credible enforcer of the integrity of competitive elections.
Nor have the country's political elites and foreign election observers convened to decide what can be done to raise Haiti's electoral conduct closer to universal standards for minimally fair elections. Ironically, the absence of clear evidence of centrally coordinated fraud has left foreign observers and many of Haiti's political parties in a quandary about how to respond to the CEP's incompetence.
Although one hesitates to conclude that a country is not ready for democracy, it does appear that Haiti requires a clearer consensus among elites and a longer period of economic modernization before it can stage fully free and fair elections. For this reason, international actors should work to establish a consensus within Haitian society in favor of elections before they agree to monitor future votes. When the United States invaded Haiti in 1994 and reimposed democracy, not all the country's political elites were yet ready to accept the most basic electoral ground rules.
Throughout the 1990s, Haiti's elections have been conducted with an eye to their impact in the United States. Domestic political actors have always been careful to satisfy the U.S. interests, inside and outside of government, that backed their country's involvement in Haiti. Nevertheless, these same U.S. interests have been discouraged by the fact that the presence of international monitors in Haiti has not led to the formation of a competent, independent electoral administration or a functioning party system. Their (mis)perception that foreign monitoring appeared to work in Haiti in 19901991 encouraged external actors to ignore problems that arose again in subsequent elections (the same kinds of problems that were heartily condemned in 1995 and 1997).
In 1990, most of the world was overjoyed that Haiti was able to hold any election at all. The situation changed dramatically in 1995. In an attempt to increase their political capital, Republican members of the U.S. Congress attacked the Clinton administration's post-invasion project in Haiti, especially problems associated with the 1995 and 1997 elections. The effort did not give the Republicans the political advantage they desired, but it did strengthen the hand of those among Aristide's domestic opponents who sought to delegitimate these elections.(42) Paradoxically, by exaggerating the CEP's very real problems and political parties' weaknesses, foreign observers undermined Haiti's nascent democratic institutions and reinforced the self-fulfilling tendency of many Haitians to assume that it is futile to try to construct a functioning democracy in the country.
The principal dilemma in contemporary Haiti is that most of civil society remains clearly behind Aristide, but most of political society (especially his erstwhile political allies) scorns him. Although Aristide's opponents probably would draw only limited support in any open election, at this point the international community does not seem much interested in assuring that Haiti's elections are credible, especially if their main result is to produce either a hegemonic party system dominated by Aristide or a two-party system consisting of two Lavalas factions, as has existed since the 1995 elections. Ironically, the United States' insistence that Aristide step down after completing his term in February 1996 (rather than extending it by the 1,111 days that he was exiled) strengthened Aristide's popular appeal. Had he remained in office for an additional three years, his reputation might well have suffered as a result of the usual disadvantages of incumbency, especially in light of the country's almost inherent ungovernability.
In 1990, foreign election observers in Haiti faced a dilemma that is common in the Americas. Haiti's constitution is both federal and semi-presidential. This situation made the 1990 elections ambitious not only in terms of security and credibility, but also in terms of the sheer number of offices contested. Yet foreign observers focused on the presidential race, in part because Aristide was one of the candidates and in part because this was the only contest in which the vote could be verified. Haiti's frail NGOs and political parties, the weakest in the Americas, have not been able to verify any of the election results produced by the country's ineffectual Provisional Electoral Councils. Because neither NGOs nor parties were able to conduct parallel counts, quick-count sampling was the only tool available to foreign observers. Yet samples are only useful when election results are not close, as in the direct vote in the 1990 presidential election. They are impractical for Haiti's plurality elections in Chamber of Deputies and Senate districts because too many statistically representative samples would have to be taken. By overestimating the value that the 1990 presidential election held for Haitians, international actors inadvertently reinforced centralization of power in the country, thereby undercutting the decentralizing goals of the 1987 constitution.
One of the strengths of foreign election observers is that they can speak out to an international audience when they find shortcomings that can be corrected, thus helping a country that is not yet ready to hold free elections. Unfortunately, they can also overlook or exaggerate anomalies, in effect camouflaging the country's true state of electoral readiness. This latter situation is what has occurred in Haiti. By applying a lower standard for democratic elections, foreign observers in 19901991 taught Haiti's political society that electoral transparency and enforcement of election rules can be ignored. Then, by overemphasizing the problems that arose during 1995 and 1997, they encouraged Haitian political society to construe most of the country's electoral shortcomings as deliberate fraud. This lack of candor on the part of international observers has created an impression of decentralized fraud committed by competing legislative candidates, along with centralized fraud by an electoral commission that has been controlled by Aristide forces since 1995. Like El Salvador and Nicaragua, Haiti requires a permanent electoral commission capable of institutionalizing its relations with foreign observers, who can then help meet the many administrative needs that exist and cooperate with political parties to develop much stronger independent vote verification capabilities.
In the absence of an institutionalized party system, it is unclear what claims Haiti's parties and elected leaders have on each other, or whether it is possible to develop the consensus necessary to implement various constitutional mandates. Although ex-president Aristide governs from behind the scenes with his ally Préval as president, he lacks support from parties other than his own. Few among the political elite are willing to take orders from him because he still is perceived as unwilling to engage in consensual decision making. The 1995 and 1997 elections only produced a decimated party system and a temporary electoral commission that lacks a national census from which to restructure all its management operations.
In light of these deficiencies, international actors involved in Haiti might potentially assume a caretaker role.(43) Free elections supervised by foreign observers, if named as the price of a more intrusive foreign protectorate, might make democratization possible if foreign monitors intervene to resolve the constitutional conflicts that have alienated Haiti's political society from elections and parliamentary compromise. Unfortunately, U.S. political support for a foreign armed presence in Haiti, let alone for extensive and prolonged judicial reform, has its limits. Haitians, moreover, almost certainly would not welcome a U.S. or UN intervention of this kind.(44)
Because Haiti's current state of affairs has been two centuries in the
making, it will necessarily take some time to resolve it. Since the 19901991
elections, all of the country's elected and unelected political leaders
have been unwilling to sacrifice their narrow, personal interests for the
good of the country, and this is something that international election
observers have been unable to change. Marx's dictum about history repeating
itself seems to apply to foreign electoral observation in Haiti: the 1987
election massacres were a tragedy, while the 199091, 1995, and 1997
elections were a farce. Even the election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in
1990 was dishonestly administered--although Aristide honestly and decisively
won the vote. Foreign observers' failure to acknowledge the problems with
that vote initiated a cascade effect that has been felt throughout all
ensuing elections and administrations.
Carey, Henry F. 1997. "Electoral Regimes and Democratic Transitions in Less Developed Countries: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti, Pakistan, Romania and the Philippines in Comparative Perspective." Manuscript. February.
Doyle, W. Michael, et al., eds. 1997. Keeping the Peace. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Farah, Douglas. 1995. "Haiti Gives Préval Wide Vote Margin," Washington Post, December 19.
Haiti Info. 1997. "CEP Called to Order," vol. 5 (13): 1, 3.
Herman, Edward S., and Frank Brodhead. 1984. Demonstration Elections: U.S.Staged Elections in the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and El Salvador. Boston, Mass.: South End.
IRI (International Republican Institute). 1995. "Haiti Election Alert." Washington, D.C.: IRI, June 27.
------. 1996. "Haiti: Election Observation Report, Dec. 17, 1995." Washington, D.C.: IRI, January 25.
------. 1997. "Haiti Election Update." Washington, D.C.: IRI, April 22.
Karl, Terry. 1986. "Imposing Consent? Electoralism vs. Democratization in El Salvador." In Elections and Democratization in Latin America, 19801985, edited by Paul W. Drake and Eduardo Silva. La Jolla: Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies, Center for U.S.Mexican Studies, and Institute of the Americas, University of California, San Diego.
Pastor, Robert A. 1995. "Mission to Haiti #3: Elections for Parliament and Municipalities, June 2325, 1995." Working Paper of the Carter Center of Emory University. Atlanta, Ga.: Carter Center.
------. 1998. "Mediating Elections," Journal of Democracy 9 (1): 15463.
Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 1995. "Haiti's Nightmare and the Lessons of History." In Haiti: Dangerous Crossroads, edited by the North American Congress on Latin America. Boston, Mass.: South End.
U.S. Department of State. 1987. Declassified cable from U.S. Embassy to Secretary of State, Port-au-Prince, A-3782, pp. 35, June 12.
Washington Office on Haiti. 1991. Report on the Elections of December 16, 1990. Washington, D.C.
Wilentz, Amy. 1989. The Rainy Season: Haiti since the Duvaliers. New York: Simon and Schuster.
2. The Reagan administration ultimately certified Haiti's improved human rights performance in January 1984 and June 1985. The Department of State's January 30, 1984, certification claimed that "the Government of Haiti has made a concerted and significant effort to improve the human rights situation by implementing the political reforms which are essential to the development of democracy." Although this assertion was as absurd as the results of the July 1985 plebiscite Jean-Claude Duvalier organized to legitimate his status as "president for life," these certifications prevented the House Foreign Affairs Committee in March 1984 from blocking the authorization of U.S.$50 million in military aid to Haiti.
3. Although Duvalier did hold legislative elections in 1979 and 1984, municipal elections in 1983, and the 1985 referendum on his rule, only a few opposition candidates competed, and all were subjected to threats and intimidation.
4. Author interviews with Stephen Horblith, administrative assistant to then congressman Walter Faunteroy, chair of the Congressional Caucus on Haiti, July 1988, and with numerous Western and Latin American diplomats over the years.
5. Interview with former U.S. ambassador to Haiti Clayton MacManaway, July 1988.
6. Many Haitian intellectuals accused the United States of "hijacking" the 1986 revolution, while the United States claimed it had made the revolution possible. Crucial was Namphy's decision not to shoot civilian protesters in Gonaïves and Cap-Haïtien. In retrospect, the ability to execute that order showed that Haiti was not incapable of securing violence-free elections when there was the military will to do so.
7. Although the referendum supposedly produced a 99 percent YES vote, this figure was clearly inflated, given that Jean-Bertrand Aristide and other influential liberation theologists opposed the constitution's ratification. It would appear that General Namphy, in his headlong rush to restart the flow of U.S. aid, reverted to the electoral tradition perfected by Duvalier.
8. Namphy's decision did, however, reassure U.S. Ambassador Brunson McKinley. McKinley's misplaced trust in Namphy effectively ruined his diplomatic career.
9. The armed forces were no more able to institutionalize an authoritarian regime than they were able to control a democratic transition from above. Frequent coups from 1986 to 1990 indicated the extent of praetorianism in Haiti. Each coup, whether successful or not, brought large-scale reorganizations, reducing what little effective command and control the military hierarchy had. Then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide effectively abolished the Haitian army in December 1994.
10. Prior to their formal dissolution at the end of the Duvalier regime in February 1986, the Tontons Macoutes comprised a uniformed civil militia. Estimates of the militia's size range from 10,000 to 50,000 members. The Macoutes principally served as a paramilitary security force protecting the Duvalier dictatorship. Since the Macoutes were banned, their notorious violence has become less identifiable because they no longer wear their traditional blue uniforms.
11. Louis Déjoie II was the son of Louis Déjoie, the most prominent presidential candidate in the 1957 election, which was officially won by Francois Duvalier. The Déjoie family went into exile after Duvalier began his reign of terror. Déjoie II returned to Haiti after "Baby Doc" Duvalier fell from power and proceeded to resurrect his father's political party.
12. Only the CEP had authority to do so.
13. In the period after Duvalier's ouster, Father Aristide became a well-known "liberation priest." Following the massacre at his church (from which Aristide himself barely escaped), Aristide went into hiding. His Salesian Catholic order subsequently expelled him for preaching class struggle and hatred. He did not return to public life until the United Nations and Organization of American States had secured the 1990 elections and he announced his candidacy for the presidency. Wilentz (1989) describes his rise to prominence prior to the massacre, his use of Haitian voodoo motifs in the Catholic liturgy and vestments, his apocalyptic style and quasi-socialist and anti-imperialist sermons, and his particular appeal to young, unemployed males in Port-au-Prince. Aristide's knack for survival only augmented the charisma that he still has among Haiti's masses, despite credible rumors of corruption.
14. Multilateral involvement in Haiti was authorized by the UN and OAS general assemblies, and UN security monitors were permitted under Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter in 1990 and under Chapter VII in 1995 and 1997. As a legal matter, the 1990 mission was a "peacekeeping" effort, whereas the 1995 and 1997 missions were "peace-making" initiatives. Under strict construction of the UN Charter, the Chapter VII action authorizing elections under Security Council Resolution 940 (1994) required that there be a threat to international peace. International legal scholars did not object to the Security Council's judicial activism. Their debate focused instead on whether the United Nations, in the face of opposition from the U.S. Congress, can give the U.S. president legal authority to intervene forcibly, in a variation on the War Powers Act debate. See American Journal of International Law 1995.
15. Several different explanations have been offered for the delays, even though the 1987 constitution requires that a presidential election be held within ninety days of a vacancy, or at least within ninety days after a provisional government has been formed. That would have meant holding elections on June 30, the original date scheduled. UN Resident Representative Reinhart Helmke said that the delays were necessary for logistical reasons, given Haiti's difficult administrative and geographical terrain (author interview, January 1991). Jean-Paul Poirier, a former consultant to the UN mission in Haiti, alleged that the delay was meant to accommodate the schedule of a Port-au-Prince printer who was "busy" until after the start of the academic year. The printer supposedly delayed his work in return for a kickback to the CEP officials who had authorized the unnecessarily high contract price for printing the ballots. Poirier's version was supported by USAID officials interviewed by the author.
16. About a thousand civilian observers were present on election day. They mainly represented different nongovernmental organizations, including the Puebla Institute, the Washington Office on Haiti, and the International Human Rights Law Group. For the second round of legislative and local elections held on January 20, 1991, the only international observers present were several dozen civilians from the UN and OAS and a few dozen UN security monitors.
17. Of 3,227,115 registered voters, only 1,640,729 (50.8 percent) voted in December 1990. This low turnout may reflect an unreliable registration process and the loss of at least 300,000 ballots. This loss was acknowledged publicly by Horacio Boneo, chief of the UN mission staff, at a meeting of the Latin American Studies Association on April 4, 1991. Boneo also said that the number of lost ballots could be anywhere between 200,000 and 500,000 (personal communication, August 1991). The Washington Office on Haiti (1991: 24) was the only foreign NGO observer to report that around 300,000 ballots were missing.
18. Aristide announced the formation of the loosely organized Lavalas movement during his 1990 election campaign. It contested the 1995 parliamentary elections as the Bo Tab La Party.
19. It is interesting to note that the key members of the prior CEP received the choice appointments: Emmanuel Ambroise was appointed ambassador to Canada; Jean-Robert Sabalah was named foreign minister; and Jean Casamir became Haiti's ambassador to the United States.
20. The United States' action was sanctioned several months before but occurred in September 1994. The Haitian president, Emil Jonaissant, agreed to capitulate after a dramatic display of U.S. military force and two days of negotiations led by Jimmy Carter, U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, and General Colin Powell, Ret., former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
21. Pastor had observed over two dozen elections. See Pastor 1995.
22. A few opposition candidates ran despite their parties' boycotts, and they won a significant number of votes.
23. They included one candidate who claimed to be the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary.
24. Following the 1995 vote, Aristide left the Lavalas party to form Lafan mi Lavalas. The OPL was renamed the Oganizasyon Pep k ap Lite (retaining the OPL acronym), now led by Aristide opponent Gérard Pierre-Charles.
25. The boycotting parties could not be persuaded to join in the second round, which was originally scheduled for May 25, 1997, but was postponed until June 15.
26. Doing so would increase the number of votes needed for outright victory, thus presumably handicapping the two pro-Aristide candidates who were declared winners in the first round of balloting.
27. Even so, the international community, which had endorsed the outcomes of the two earlier elections as legitimate, would not support the 1997 results. In an unprecedented move, the United Nations declared on August 21, 1997, that it would not verify a second round of the 1997 elections unless the CEP was totally restructured. As of July 1998, the UN had not resumed its electoral activities in Haiti.
28. In recent years, the NDI has concentrated its pro-democracy efforts on civic education and the training of nongovernmental organizations in areas such as poll watching. However, given the weakness of civil society in Haiti, neither the NDI nor its Republican counterpart, the IRI, has attempted to build a network of NGOs capable of conducting parallel vote counts there.
29. The U.S. budget states that "the legislature, local governments, civil society, and political parties also are receiving assistance to develop checks and balances necessary to a democratic system."
30. Electoral observation in Haiti was similar in structure to the 1990 and 1996 OAS and Carter Center missions to Nicaragua, the UN mission to Nicaragua in 1990, and the OAS mission in El Salvador in 1991. UN missions in Haiti qualified as complex peacekeeping missions, although they were less ambitious than those in El Salvador and Cambodia. For an analysis of the concept of complex peacekeeping as applied to Cambodia and El Salvador, see Doyle et al. 1997.
31. It could have occurred within any of the CEPs as well, given that CEP counts have usually not been independently verified by political parties, NGOs, or foreign observers. The only known exception is that the IRI reported that it had a representative at the CEP counts during the 1995 legislative elections.
32. This rumor was circulated by Smarck Michel, who was to become President Aristide's first prime minister after his return.
33. In terms of international law, the Assembly action set a precedent for UN electoral observation in a member state, even though approval from the Security Council was not forthcoming. However, this action was not controversial, in part because the United Nations Commission on Human Rights had been sending special rapporteurs to countries for a decade, and the FMLNSalvadoran human rights agreement of July 1990 had authorized a large UN human rights mission.
34. USAID eventually concluded that the UN and IFES had been lax in their supervision of CEP-IV, especially given that no audit was ever conducted.
35. Poirier charged that the delay permitted an illegal kickback on the CEP's $3 million printing order for the ballots, when a Miami printing house had bid to do the job for only $1 million. The Haitian printing company that actually received the $3 million CEP contract could not meet the original September 30, 1990, date for the elections because it supposedly was busy in late summer printing schoolbooks for the academic year. The UN consultants also alleged that the cost of paper was only $200,000, but the CEP requested another over-priced contract of $800,000, allegedly receiving another kickback. UN official Horacio Boneo denied Poirier's allegations, but he conceded that significant CEP corruption was possible (author interviews, June 1990, and February and April 1991).
36. This suspicion was aroused by the fact that top CEP-IV "insiders" had links to Aristide's allies and were rewarded after the election by being named to coveted posts (see note 19). Aristide could not have participated in a September election because of his stated opposition to the holding of elections. Only after former interior minister Roger Lafontant returned to Haiti in late summer 1990 to run for the presidency did Aristide have a justification for reversing himself, and the postponement gave him time to campaign.
37. The legislators sought a no-confidence vote on at least four occasions in the summer of 1991.
38. To be fair, similar disparities existed in U.S. congressional districts until the 1964 Supreme Court decision of Wesberry v. Sanders, and only in more recent court decisions has the U.S. standard become precise numerical equality among districts.
39. Following McCoy's terminology (this volume), the 199091, 1995, and 1997 elections were "monitored"; the 1987 elections were merely "observed." Also see Pastor 1998.
40. Although it is true that the United States did not disclose the names of human rights violators listed in documents that U.S. forces seized in September 1994 from the army high command and from the FRAPH (Front pour l'Avancement et le Progrés Haïtien) terrorist organization, this apparently had no bearing on Aristide's decision to keep the names secret.
41. The participating parties' leaders included Marc Bazin (the second post1986 prime minister), Volvick Romy Joseph (a Duvalierist cabinet minister), and Leslie Manigat (who accepted the presidency in January 1988 after being "selected" by General Namphy in boycotted elections).
42. These opponents included Marc Bazin, who had always opposed Aristide; Evans Paul, who sponsored Aristide's candidacy in 1990; and members of the faction, led by Gérard Pierre-Charles, from which Aristide forces defected in late 1995.
43. The consociational Peace Commission and UN mediator Alvaro de Soto assumed such a role in El Salvador for a time after the January 1992 Chapultepec Pact.
44. Since November 1997, the only UN mission agents with coercive capabilities have been police monitors, whose mandate has been extended at regular intervals of several months each and who will probably remain in Haiti through at least the general elections in the year 2000, when and if they are held.