Monday, December 31, 2012

Accord to Break Electoral Council Stand-Off between Martelly and Parliament Appears “Stillborn”

by Isabelle L. Papillon (Haiti Liberte)

Poor governance, disregard of Haiti’s laws, a tendency to ride roughshod over other institutions and branches of government, and a lack of a spirit of compromise from the right-wing regime headed by President Joseph Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Salvador Lamothe, with the support of the U.S., France, and Canada, have plunged Haiti for months into a political crisis.

            This crisis is escalating from day to day since the installation of a so-called "Permanent Electoral Council" (CEP) of six members, based in Pétion-ville. The Constitution only allows a nine member Electoral Council.

            The Senate is missing one-third of its 30 Senators since their terms expired last May. Therefore, the legislative branch is unable to appoint members to the CEP under the articles of the 1987 amended Constitution.

            For a few months, talks were held between the executive and the legislature, mediated by  of a group of clerics called Platform of Religions for Peace Haiti. They searched for a formula to form an Electoral Council that would be acceptable to all parties.

            Finally, on Dec. 24, an agreement was signed between some parliamentarians and executive branch representatives proposing the formation of a body to temporarily manage the Permanent Electoral Council, known as the "Transitional College of the Permanent Electoral Council." This formula respects neither the letter nor spirit of the Haitian Constitution which recognizes only two types of Electoral Council: provisional or permanent.

            Leaders from across the political spectrum are calling the Christmas Eve deal either an “agreement of disagreement” or a “stillborn agreement.” Meanwhile, Haiti’s more radical popular organizations have already declared the only thing they will agree to is Martelly’s departure as head of state.

            So, what does this agreement say? It is signed by five parliamentarians: Senators Jean William Jeanty, Jocelerme Privert, François Lucas Sainvil, and Deputies Wikens Dérilus and Guerda Bellevue Benjamin. Also signing were Gregory Mayard-Paul, an advisor to President Martelly, who was not part of the Presidential Commission engaged in discussions, and Bishop Pierre André Dumas, representing the mediators, Religions for Peace Haiti.

            Here is the text of the agreement: “Article 1 - There will be formed a body to temporarily manage the Permanent Electoral Council in order to organize the next elections. Article 2 - Its name is: Transitional College of the Permanent Electoral Council. It is composed of nine members, three are appointed by the legislative power, three by the Executive, and three by the High Council of the Judiciary. Article 3 - The mandate of the Transitional College of the Permanent Electoral Council shall end with the proclamation of the final results of the elections. Article 4 - In the framework of this agreement, the Executive, if circumstances require, may obtain the withdrawal of any or all of its representatives already appointed and installed in the Permanent Electoral Council. Article 5 - The Platform Religions for Peace Haiti will lead, with the assistance of the executive and legislative powers, talks needed to enable the Superior Council of the Judiciary to solve the problem with the appointment of its representatives in the electoral institution . Article 6 - The Legislative Branch undertakes, once the agreement is signed, to hold an extraordinary National Assembly, remaining pending, for the purpose of initiating the process of appointing its representatives to the Transitional College, according to the procedure adopted by the Parliament. Article 7 - Ongoing dialogue will be maintained between the parties to ensure that the Protocol is followed, as it takes effect upon its signing and holds the parties responsible.”

            In the Parliament, both the majority or minority blocs in the Chamber of Deputies rejected the agreement. The majority bloc is called the Parliamentarians for Stability and Progress (PSP), but its critics give it the nickname “Parliamentarians on the Payroll of the National Palace” because it is so close to the Martelly/Lamothe government. Nonetheless, Jean Tolbert Alexis, the PSP’s president stated that "the proposal of the Senators does not commit the Chamber of Deputies, much less the PSP. Parliament’s power cannot be delegated. We will not choose based on proposals from civil society."

            Another PSP spokesman, Descolines Abel, also expressed unease about the government’s posture. He noted that there was no Christmas-time distribution of food and gifts to the poor, as the Haitian government traditionally does.

            Meanwhile, the Parliamentarians for Institutional Respect (PRI), the deputies’ minority bloc, said the Dec. 24 deal does not contribute to progress towards the resolution of the crisis. Levaillant Louis-Jeune, president of the Chamber of Deputies, refuses to endorse the agreement and called on politicians to mobilize to defeat this “evil plan” which is against the interests of the nation. "This protocol of accord is a non-agreement,” he said. “The holding of elections is not on President Martelly’s agenda. His goal is to make the Parliament obsolete in order to rule by decree. With the signing of this document, we have taken steps backward."

            The former President of the Lower House, Sorel Jacinthe, called it “a stillborn agreement” and “a mere leaflet because it was signed by people who have no authority to commit the institutions of the republic.” According to him, this agreement is “flawed both in form and in the content” and does “not respect the principles of government.”

            Senator Moïse Jean-Charles sees the agreement as “a trap, the starting point of a sham election,” and “a signed blank check to President Martelly, to allow him to take full control of the CEP.” He called for concerted action to defeat this agreement. His opinion matches that of the leaders of Haiti’s popular organizations who declared: "The Haitian people have already concluded their agreement that Michel Joseph Martelly should step down as head of state."

            For months, Sen. Moïse has called for the formation of a compromise Provisional Electoral Council, which is essentially the formula which has been used in Haiti’s elections over the past 25 years.

            The leaders of the largest political parties and platforms also denounced the agreement. One of the Executive Board members of the political platform INITE, Paul Denis, who has solidly anti-Lavalas political credentials, lashed out at the deal. "This agreement is full of disagreement,” he said. “The problem is not the name of the electoral institution, but that its credibility is called into question."

            There seems to be general agreement that this supposed deal between Parliament and the Executive is nothing more than a poisoned Christmas gift. Questions abound: what happens with the six members of the so-called Permanent Electoral Council already installed? What about the six representatives of the controversial High Council of the Judiciary, which is universally considered to have been illegally formed and to be a mere puppet of Martelly’s executive branch? And what about the current CEP’s President, Josué Pierre-Louis, who stands accused of raping his subordinate Danielle Marie Bernadin? Can a credible CEP have an alleged rapist as its head?

            Article 4 of the agreement provides no guarantee that the Executive must withdraw its representatives from the CEP. Meanwhile, it is totally unclear how the Parliament is to appoint its CEP representatives.

            All of this augurs a tumultuous opening of the first ordinary session of the 2013 Parliament, to be held on Jan. 14. Meanwhile, grassroots organizations from Gonaïves to Port-au-Prince have called for a large anti-Martelly march on Jan. 1. The demonstrators will gather at 9:00 a.m. in front of the ruins of St. Jean Bosco Church on Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines in the capital. They will march to demand Martelly’s resignation.

The Executive’s representative Gregory Mayard-Paul (left) shakes hands with Sen. Jean William Jeanty after the signing on Dec. 24 of a much-contested accord creating a “Transitional College of the Permanent Electoral Council.”

Photo by CanalplusHaiti

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