Hands Off Haiti

Why International Interference Is Hampering Recovery

A woman puts her hand near a crack on a wall as she waits for food distribution in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 27, 2010. Carlos Barria / Reuters

Six years after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, much of its infrastructure and institutions still lie in ruins, and its democracy is now in crisis as well. After coming to power in 2011, Haitian President Michel Martelly failed to schedule elections for four years. He filled municipal posts with political appointees and has ruled by decree since parliament dissolved in January 2015, when the terms of two-thirds of the senate and the entire lower house expired. When elections finally happened in August and October, they were riddled with irregularities. Yet Martelly seated the new Parliament on January 11, and despite domestic calls to postpone the January 24 presidential runoff, he plans to move forward. But the election will be a charade: Jude Célestin, the second-place finisher in October’s first-round presidential elections, has indicated that he will not participate in the runoff, which he said “isn’t an election but a selection,” leaving the race uncontested.

Haiti has even been under intense international pressure to push the election forward. The United States and the Core Group (composed of ambassadors from Brazil, Canada, the EU, France, Spain, the United States, and the special representative of the Organization of American States) pressured the country to seat its parliament and ensure that Martelly, who is constitutionally prohibited from running for reelection, is replaced when his term expires on February 7. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement on January 6 stressing “the importance of inaugurating the new legislature within the constitutional time frame to ensure the renewal of democratic institutions and consolidate political stability in Haiti.” And yet it is the international community and its foreign-imposed solutions that will foster political instability by undermining Haiti’s fragile democracy.

Washington, which has a long history of meddling in Haiti, has invested in the electoral process by providing $30 million in assistance for the elections, making it the largest donor, so it has a clear stake in claiming that the vote is free and fair. Yet the election has been anything but clean.

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