Haiti’s difficulties with democracy

Haiti’s difficulties with democracy

People took to the streets of Port-au-Prince and other major cities asking for the ballot to be called off. With people carrying machetes and guns, throwing stones and burning tires, elections were postponed three times in 6 weeks.

Once again, Haiti is facing serious issues regarding its democratic stability. The presidential elections, which are currently scheduled for the 24 April, risk being postponed… for the fourth time. The first round in October featured the participation of 54 candidates. These included Jovenel Moise, a businessman and banana exporter, backed by the existing president Michel Martelly, led with 32.8%. However, Jude Celestin, who secured second place with 25.3 %, denounced the validity of the poll outcomes, claiming irregularities in the electoral proceedings and calling the run-off a fraud. Many independent election observers reported several anomalies in the electoral procedures and Celestin threatened to withdraw unless new elections were put in place. People took to the streets of Port-au-Prince and other major cities asking for the ballot to be called off. With people carrying machetes and guns, throwing stones and burning tires, elections were postponed three times in 6 weeks. A man believed to be a former soldier was beaten to death by an armed group, which claimed to belong to the disbanded army, that paraded in the capital streets and pointed guns at civilians. Although the Economist reported that a new election scenario could see Moise losing, many residents believe that the results would not change significantly and that the riots were not addressing Haiti’s major issues.

After reaching an agreement, the Parliament established an interim government in order to avoid a power vacuum. Martelly had to step down from the presidency on 7 February, constitutionally barred from running for a consecutive re-election. Jocelerme Privert was elected for a 120 days term, the time to restore stability and guarantee a suitable level of security for voters and poll organisers; the new provisional Prime Minister Enex Jean-Charles vowed for new elections “as soon as possible”. However, analysts are not sure if the new electoral body will be able to organise votes properly for the 24 April.

Political uncertainty does not play in favour of the Caribbean Republic, whose economy, after the 2010 earthquake, still relies significantly on international aids. Moreover, the global drought El Niño impacted heavily on the agriculture, pushing prices up and deepening food insecurity. According to the World Food Programme of the United Nations, this affects almost one-third of the 10 million Haitians. Inflation, which reached 12%, was furthered by the overland ban of imports for several goods imposed on the Dominican Republic after its only land neighbour decided to expel Haitian immigrants in September. In a country which suffered from a long dictatorship and several coup d’etat, partisan interests must be put aside in order to diminish its social tensions and solve its countless issues. With almost 60% of the population living below the poverty line, Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

 

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