Society Appeal for a Solution to the Crisis
by the Civil Society Initiative
(a group of seventeen organizations)
After three decades of dictatorship which virtually
halted the country's political and economic development,
the Haitian people hoped that 1986 would begin an era
of democracy, political stability, economic progress
and social justice. On the contrary, for the past fourteen
years, politics has been in a severe state of turbulence,
marked by coups d'état, failed elections and
institutional crises. Democracy has gone into crisis,
the economy has regressed, and poverty has increased.
The manifold social, political and economic crisis the
country is facing has become chronic and is worsening
The year 2000 senatorial, municipal and local elections
should have given the country a new opportunity both
economically and politically. Unfortunately, the irregularities
in the electoral process and the resulting frustrations
and protests are threatening to throw the country into
a new cycle of social turmoil and economic recession.
One of the sources of blockage is the absence of a
real dialogue among the actors on the national scene.
Instead of talking, negotiating, liquidating past disputes
and creating a normal environment for future relations,
they prefer to ostracize each other.
The organizations and institutions of the Civil Society
Initiative believe that at this particularly critical
moment in Haiti's national life, only genuine negotiations
can open the road to a lasting political and economic
recovery. With that in mind, we, of the Civil Society
Initiative, address an appeal and propose a process
of dialogue between the protagonists of the political
crisis. We hereby present the facts concerning the elections
and their foreseeable consequences. We submit to the
Haitian people and to the concerned actors a resolution
mechanism and we state our appeal.
II. Recent events
Senatorial, municipal and local elections were held
on May 21, 2000. The pre-electoral period was marked
by physical violence and intimidation. Party workers
and candidates were killed or assaulted, political-party
headquarters and electoral bureaus were burned down.
The procedures stipulated in the electoral law and the
scheduled dates in the electoral agenda were not respected.
The opposition had considerable difficulty in campaigning.
In spite of these obstacles, many candidates participated
and voter participation was over 60 percent. On election
day, despite many irregularities, particularly the late
opening of many voting stations and the incidence of
acts of violence and intimidation, things were relatively
calm. That night the established procedure for counting
the ballots was not respected. The police, or sometimes
some armed groups, took away the ballot boxes from some
voting places before the votes could be counted in the
presence of the parties' representatives and the independent
observers. The excuse for moving these boxes was the
lack of lighting, for which a solution could have been
found in advance. These irregular operations encouraged
all kinds of fraud, from ballot-stuffing to ballot-box
But most important was the counting method used to
determine the winners of the first round of the senatorial
races. Seventeen seats had to be filled: two for each
department, except the Departement du Centre where three
seats were vacant. Eight of the nine departments had
senate races; elections in one, the Departement de la
Grand'Anse, were postponed.
The electoral commission announced that all seventeen
seats were filled in the first round. In fact, the electoral
law stipulates that one must have 50 percent plus one
of the votes in order to be elected to the senate. The
electoral council, instead of counting 50 percent plus
one of the total of the votes as required by the law,
counted only the votes cast for the four top vote-getters
in seven departments and for the six top finishers in
the Centre. By this subterfuge they simply discarded
a great number of votes in order to declare first-round
winners. Candidates who should have gone to a second
round were declared elected in the first round.
In the elections held on May 21, how many senators
really had the required number of votes to be elected
in the first round? This has not been officially determined.
to the electoral council president, Mr. Léon
Manus, who went into exile because of threats he
received, only five out of seventeen senators would
have won on the first round. According
to the OAS mission, that number would be nine. The
main point is that the second round was canceled without
due process at the senatorial level, thus eliminating
the possibility for the opposition parties to win any
Furthermore, if the opposition had participated in
the legislative second-round elections, it would most
likely have won a respectable number of seats in the
lower chamber. This would have given the legislature
a chance to fulfill its oversight mission by introducing
some sort of pluralism. The fraud committed during the
night and in the senatorial-vote-counting scandal resulted
in the opposition's boycott of the remaining electoral
process, including the first round in Grand'Anse.
The departure from the electoral commission (CEP) of
its president plus two members representing the opposition
parties because of threats; their replacement by the
executive in an arbitrary fashion and without consulting
the opposition and civil society; the lack of credibility
and the partisan attitude of the new CEP gave enough
reasons for the opposition parties not to participate
in the presidential and senatorial elections held on
November 26. The OAS and the international community
denounced these serious irregularities. Some important
civil-society institutions have also condemned these
unacceptable CEP practices.
The Haitian electorate also expressed its disapproval
through a very weak participation in the electoral process
following May 21. As for the November 26 elections,
many observers reported a turnout of no more than 10
In light of these facts, it can be stated that the
party in power, Fanmi Lavalas, has caused serious harm
and damage, first to the Haitian citizens whose votes
were ignored in the counting, second to the candidates
and parties who did not receive fair treatment, and
finally to the Haitian people because they were not
able to participate in the electoral process to the
end because of the serious irregularities.
Besides the harm caused to the Haitian people, these
disruptions of democratic norms will undoubtedly have
serious consequences for the whole nation and call for
immediate correction. These consequences are of a socio-economic
and political nature.
3.1 Socio-economic consequences
As previously indicated, the successive political crises
the country has faced for the past the past ten years
are the main cause of the serious deterioration of the
national economy. Haiti is positioning itself among
countries qualified as failing states alongside Somalia,
Liberia, Bosnia and Colombia, to name a few. While the
world is experiencing an unprecedented scientific, technological
and economic revolution, our country has known for the
past ten years a particularly dangerous economic and
Due to ill-governance, particularly because Haiti has
not kept its promises and obligations to carry out administrative,
judiciary and economic reforms, as well as insure public
security and respect of democratic rules, international
aid has been substantially reduced and national and
international investment has not materialized. This
has severely strained the national economy:
National production of goods
and services has dropped considerably during the past
ten years, from 6 to 4 billion gourdes. This represents
a per capita income of less than 3,000 gourdes (three
thousand gourdes) per year, equivalent to less than
US$ 0.50 per day. Need it be recalled that, at the start
of the third millennium, our country is among the thirty
poorest nations of the world and continues to show the
lowest human-development index of the Americas? Sixty
percent of Haitians live below the level of absolute
poverty and cannot provide for their basic needs.
During the last ten years, the wealth produced by the
country has continually diminished and has been largely
absorbed by the demographic growth. Thus the disturbing
deterioration of the living standards of the population.
In order to compensate for this decrease in national
production we had to import more. Indeed, during that
ten-year period, our imports went from US$400 million
to $1 billion. During the last year of that period our
exports did not reach $400 million, creating a balance-of-payments
deficit for Haiti of more than $600 million. This was
financed in great part by transfers from Haitians leaving
abroad as well as by other unrecorded transfers.
A linear projection of present trends in demography,
production and unemployment indicates that the great
majority of the population will continue to live below
the level of absolute poverty.
Consumed by internal quarrels, divided on all essential
matters, paralyzed and unable to resolve matters through
compromise, Haitian society will fall farther behind
in a world that is changing faster than ever and will
become isolated and marginalized.
Public finances show a similar
deterioration. In a ten years, public revenues went
from 1 to 6 billions gourdes. This would be good if
spending had been well distributed and if spending and
revenue reallocation were done according to the population's
What we see is a state spending without control, often
without a budget, with no attention to the basic needs
of the population, with no parliamentary oversight,
up to a budgetary deficit of 2 billion gourdes during
the past fiscal year.
In order to handle this deficit the state has issued
new currency without any economic justification, thus
raising inflation. Over ten years, the money supply
has gone from 5 to 20 billion gourdes. The gourde has
been devalued and consequently the exchange has gone
from 7 to 20 gourdes per U.S. dollar.
This devaluation has brought serious consequences for
the consumer, the investor and the economy in general.
For the consumer, the cost of living has gone up. For
example in 1999-2000, clothing has increased 25 percent
from the year before, transportation 21 percent, energy
and water, when available, 18 percent, and education
and health, 14 percent.
For the investor, the cost of money has gone up, because
of the restrictive policy imposed by the state on the
banks. Those who can get loans are lucky to find them
at 30 percent.
The economy in general is a mess. No one wants to invest
in such a state of financial uncertainty. Most of the
national savings is in U.S. dollars and is being sent
abroad for investment in more secure economies.
On the social front, insecurity is prevalent. Armed
assaults, murders, holdups, daylight burglaries are
common. Journalists are threatened and killed in the
line of duty. Activists of some political parties make
verbal incendiary and aggressive threats. Some categories
of people enjoy total impunity. Corruption seriously
affects all functions of the judiciary, which does not
inspire confidence in the citizenry. Fear is in the
streets and in the hearts. Drug consumption is rampant
and vulgarized: a doze of cocaine is sometimes cheaper
than a loaf of bread. Due to the lack of traffic enforcement,
major road accidents are on the increase and are a leading
cause of mortality. The national police force is overwhelmed
and it is felt they are neither willing nor capable
of doing anything. The population no longer trusts the
institution. Those who can, pay for private security
services, which constitute one of the most flourishing
industries in the country. Many leave the country, while
the great majority trusts in God.
The health situation is no better: chronic malnutrition
has reached 32 percent of the population. Due to the
lack of education and sanitary training, AIDS is devastating.
If school attendance is rising, thanks to the efforts
of the educational private sector, the quality of instruction
has yet to be raised.
If the social and economic situation keeps going downhill,
Haiti will no longer be considered a country or a nation,
but will be an ungovernable chaotic entity. The crime
rate will go up together with poverty. Drug trafficking
will increase and will corrupt what remains of institutions
in the country.
How can this erosion be stopped if the international
community isolates Haiti, if international aid or credits
are withheld from our economy? All indications, whether
coming from the European Community, or from the party
which starting January 20 in the United States controlled
the executive and a majority in Congress, all indications
are that, if the serious irregularities in the Haitian
election are not corrected, international assistance
and foreign investment will stop. The country cannot
afford another decade of economic decline after the
twenty years of economic failure from 1980 to 2000.
If nothing is done, our nation will undoubtedly fall
in complete disarray and anarchy and become ungovernable.
Maintaining the elections of May 21 and November 26
as a fait accompli will bring very serious political
consequences. First, this will be an important setback
to the institutionalization of democracy. Despite some
convulsive movements, the democratic process has advanced
since 1990. At times, it has been chaotic, but corrections
have always followed. The Haitian population is learning
and getting used to democratic values like the respect
of the popular vote and the inadmissability of coups
d'état as a solution to political difficulties.
The issues at stake in the year 2000 elections are
how to correct the fraud, how to maintain the importance
of the legislative branch and local government, and
the preservation of political pluralism. Accepting the
status quo is equivalent to rejecting these values.
Democracy is a hard apprenticeship, with its share of
trials, errors and corrections. If lessons are not learned
the population will doubt the advantages of democracy.
The enemies of democracy will resurface and will try
to reinstate a totalitarian regime. The opposition will
also resort to nondemocratic action in order to exercise
its right to participate in the country's government.
At this stage, the door will be open to violence, dictatorship,
anarchy and chaos. Public liberties will be discarded.
Such a political atmosphere will discourage all investment
efforts, accelerate the brain drain and deepen the economic
mess. This is our future if adequate corrections are
not made to the year 2000 electoral process.
IV. Ways to a Solution
In order to correct the harm and damage done to the
Haitian people and to the electoral process, to prevent
the above-mentioned consequences, and to rekindle hope
in the Haitian population, a political agreement must
be reached. Some avenues can be explored. In this document,
we will outline two positions presented respectively
by the opposition parties of the Convergence Démocratique
and by the leader of the party Fanmi Lavalas in his
letter to President Clinton. Indeed, in an
annex to his letter to President Clinton, Jean-Bertrand
Aristide committed himself to correcting the problems
created by the May 21 elections. He mentioned the possibility
of redoing the second round for the contested senators,
or even the possibility of settling that matter through
"other credible means." Besides these two proposals,
the Civil Society Initiative is working on other options,
which can be introduced at an appropriate time during
4.1 The protagonists' proposals
4.1.1 Fanmi Lavalas
On February 7, 2001, installation of the president
elected on November 26, with an coalition government.
Formation of a new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP).
Organization of the second round of elections for the
May 21 contested senators.
On February 7, 2001, installation of a president and
a consensus government of national unity; elaboration
of an alternative program, organization of general elections
with a consensual CEP.
V. Solution Mechanism
A solution can be reached in four steps.
5.1 Promotion of the Negotiating Process
The present document entitled "Civil Society Appeal
for a Solution to the Crisis" will be handed out to
all concerned parties, local and international, distributed
to the press and publicly discussed. A massive press
campaign will take place.
5.2 Formation of a Facilitation Commission
This Commission will have seven members, five of whom
will represent the institutions of the Civil Society
Initiative Group launching this appeal. Fanmi Lavalas
and the opposition parties, via the Democratic Convergence,
will appoint one member each. The first five members
will come from the religious institutions, private business
and private social sectors. These must be people of
unquestionable integrity, impartiality, objectivity,
with a strong sense of common well-being, a good knowledge
of political questions and ability to negotiate. National
or international negotiators may assist the commission.
The commission will work closely with representatives
from the OAS and the United Nations, who will follow
the entire process and represent the international community
in these negotiations.
5.3 Bilateral and Multilateral Meetings
The commission and its associated members will meet
with the concerned parties, first separately and then
with other partners, in order to hear their points,
discuss the stakes, options and alternatives and to
come up with constructive proposals.
5.4 Final Session
Once the results of the bilateral and multilateral
meetings are satisfactorily reached, a final session
with all concerned parties will be organized. The results
of the previous meetings and the terms of the final
agreement binding all parties will be confirmed and
finalized. Then, the agreement will be signed.
A careful appraisal of our social, political and economic
situation reveals particularly alarming signs forcing
us to admit that our country is slowly but surely sliding
into anarchy and hell. This calls for immediate action.
We, members of the civil society, choose hope and choose
to be actors in the national life. We refuse both to
give up and to go to excesses. We refuse to believe
fatalistically that we are victims of a course that
cannot be changed. We pledge and affirm our commitment
to change things in Haiti, our country. We shall be
indefatigable in the search for a negotiated solution.
We believe and we know that Haitians can together find
a happy, nonviolent answer to their problems. We must
offer the future generation something different. We
cannot bequeath them this somber picture of continuous
discord, of uncontrollable and irrational internal battles.
It is urgent to change this picture as the bicentennial
of our national independence is quickly coming upon
us. Is it beyond our capacities to continue to strive
to maintain alive and true our motto: "L'Union Fait
la Force"? We have lost or are about to lose our cardinal
values. Elementary respect for life and private property
has become a highly expensive luxury here. Distrust
has replaced solidarity.
At this point, we can no longer indulge in whining
like helpless people. We must be clearsighted and courageous
to engage in dialogue when necessary, even when it is
extremely difficult. We must talk with those who think
as we do, and also with those whose visions and approaches
are different from ours. We have what it takes to do
it. We love our country, and thus our country deserves
this as a present from us. We must build the way to
Right next to us the Dominican Republic and the United
States have taught us lessons in democratic practice:
placing public interest above personal interest. Is
this beyond our reach?
We choose to believe that each Haitian is a brother
to the other rather than repeating: "Depi nan ginen
neg rayi neg" (Ever since Africa black men hate
black men). We choose to believe that the party in power
and the opposition can, together, agree on a common
ground. Yes, we choose to bank on hope.
Thanks to Stanley
Lucas for providing initial translation