By Randall White, haitiaction.net, June 27, 2009
It seemed as if all of Haiti was an "Aristide stronghold" on Sunday, June 21. It did not matter, rich or poor, which neighborhood you visited — upper-class Petionville or UN-ravaged Bel-Air — the only ballots in the sparkling new and mostly empty ballot boxes marked "SENATE" were those of the poll workers who were virtually "paid to vote" as there was not much else to do other than to setup and take down the expensive props of a poorly attended performance. It was made plain to the poll workers, "either vote or don't expect to get paid."
"This was not an election, it was a 'nomination' by Lespwa," claimed René Civil a leader of Lavalas' Mobilization and Communication committees, "without Lavalas there is no election in Haiti. On February 6 of this year USA's Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, met with Haiti's President Prèval, the next day the CEP — Conseil Electoral Provisoire — kicked all 14 Fanmi Lavalas Candidates out of the election. After many attempts to get the CEP to change the ruling, Fanmi Lavalas finally called for a boycott. For the first round — on April 19 — less than 5% of the electorate voted according to several sources, even though the CEP is claiming that — a still paltry — 11% voted.
It appears that for this runoff round of voting on June 21 the Lavalas boycott was even more extensive. Prèval was elected in 2006 by Lavalas supporters who took to the streets when the CEP tried to fudge the numbers there as well.
At almost every polling place the experienced election supervisors would tell us that in the past few elections there would be a line out the entry and every polling place would be swamped with voters. Usually, the ever-present UN soldiers and Haitian police were the only presence outside of the poll-workers.
For the event, the Associated Press had the concocted headlines "Haitians leery of 2nd election round amid violence" to fabricate the illusion that there was armed civil unrest and paranoia everywhere to account for the low turnout.
Unlike the election on April 19 the government allowed vehicular traffic this time, but that was mostly ignored. Haitians simply stayed home again and the streets were empty enough to play soccer on. This was not simile or metaphor. As we traveled all over the Port au Price region the comparatively empty streets had an occasional impediment to our movement. In years past, when there was real civil unrest and gunshots could be heard through the night, the road blockades would be burning tires and light poles across the road as a warning.
Two small rocks in the middle of the street informed any driver to wait a moment until the play in effect was resolved and the "occupation forces" of soccer players would let us travel onto the "soccer field" — marked by the two rocks at both ends — and stop us for a few moments to chit-chat (other members of the corporate media would have called this an "an interview with Lavalas militants," but since a bottle of Prestige or Toro would occasionally appear, as well, we felt that proper "journalistic decorum" was breached and in reality we were just "kickin-it"). Soon, we were on our way.
In the middle of Bel-Air on Rue Tiremas — a main street — there were three games going on one block. The folks at these three election day events far outnumbered the voter turnout up the hill. If they were ever allowed an opportunity to gloat, Fanmi Lavalas was pleased with the serendipitous scheduling of the Brazil/Italy soccer match. Brazil is the favorite team of many Haitians who would stay home to listen or watch the game. Even on the pro-government national TV station, TNH, the Brazilian's shutout of Italy preempted election coverage.
Early in the day, by coincidence, a TNH crew seemed to follow us to a couple of polling sites where they set up for a live broadcast of the nonevent. On Delmas 31 the Ministre des Cultes was well equipped for polling place was well equipped for an onslaught of voters and activities with a large generator and six UN personnel out front. When we arrived it looked as if the dog in the driveway hadn't moved for the hour and a half that the polling place had been open. The pattern set up to be the same the entire day. We saw a few ballots in some of the boxes and we asked how many voters had arrived so far. Exactly none. The ballots were those of the workers. We went around back to all of the polling places, same thing. When we came back around front to leave, a TNH crew had arrived to report on 'the action.'
At the Delmas 17 ONA — l’Office National d’Assurance — polling place it was the exact same thing but we got a little excited when we saw a couple of young women placing ballots in the boxes, our interest turned out to be overly optimistic, the girls returned to their posts and sat behind the table. We asked a few of the workers if the were required to vote, the workers didn't like that question and they denied that there was any obligation. On the other hand Elie Pierre — the Supervisor Principle was quite open about everything that was happening, he was clearly unhappy that CEP officials had just made it clear that all poll workers would have to show that they voted before they were paid at the end of the day.
About four other supervisors went on video with the same admission, a few more admitted the irregular policy but were clearly afraid of going on camera. Of course, the bored poll workers were unhappy about us taking pictures of their sleeping coworkers and usually waked them up before we were able to catch them on camera.
The TNH crew didn't appear at the next polling site where there was actually a little civil unrest of the kind that the AP seems to prefer. According to a group of fired workers the supervisor — Belval Arnold — had some Lespwa partisan leanings. He replaced most of the polling place's workers, who also seemed to have some partisan leanings of there own, as they were mostly "Union" — Union Pour le Sauvetage d'Haiti — supporters. There wasn't any "violence" but the disgruntled Union Party workers hung around while nobody showed up to vote. They did create a little tension in the air which might account for a few folks being "leery." As we left a fairly significant sized contingent of Canadian UN police and heavily armed soldiers were arriving to quell the leeriness .
Up the hill, in Bel-Air, we first stopped at the small Ecole Dumarseis Estemé polling site which was pretty small. Just the same, both Jordanian soldiers posted out front preceeded us into the crowded hallway that was filled with the noise of happy chickens. We were probably the only other visitors they saw that morning, more likely, they went in to wake the supervisor who was rubbing his eyes shortly before going on camera.
At the next stop everything appeared to be the same but three times larger, at Lycee Alexandre Petion, our next stop. The Supervisor Principle, gave us an interview and we headed out. At the gate a representative of the CEP (Haiti election council) — Mme. Elizabethe — seemed to ignore that another CEP official — Jasmin — was talking to members of the press when she barged in and interrupted our interview.
"Asire ke tout moun vote pou nou!" ("Be sure everyone votes for us") The statement confirmed what HaitiAction.net correspondents already had overwhelming evidence and interviews to support. Jasmin quiclky escorted her away before she could say anything else. On her way out she avoided us.
A couple of blocks away at another large site, Tertulien Gulbo - Ecole Nationale, we actually found a couple of voters. Well, sort of. One angry man, propaganda Another person, who didn't have a proper card was being escorted upstairs to vote. The only two voters we saw all day and both had "issues."
We headed back downtown, that would normally be crowded on an average day, but the area around the National Palace was a virtual ghost town. Same thing at the Champ de Mars ONA office polling site. The two people in the courtyard were watching the Brazil/Italy match on a TV and about half of the poll workers were napping. The action was pretty slow and if it wasn't for a ban on alcohol sales for "Election Day" we probably would have had a few beers and watched the game ourselves. Which is what we ended up doing a few hours later.
Hard to believe, except for a flat tire going up Route Delmas, It took virtually no time to get all the way up to Petionville to check out how the more affluent community was doing. As we arrived a group of about ten young men ran across the street to a Lexus (license plate AA 15923) as they came back across the street with 500 gourdes (about $12.75 US) in their hand we asked what was going on "…he's giving us money to vote." They identified the driver as "Ti Mario Viau," the son of the Union Party senate candidate.
Inside the Petionville school, there were over 20 polling booths and no voters. One of the supervisors gave us an off-camera interview claiming that they were actually afraid of being murdered for giving us an interview. Seems like the real "violent" folks live in the richer neighborhoods. But, even the supposedly non-Lavalas crowd was respecting the boycott.
We were starting to draw some attention ourselves so we decided to take Route Frer and flew down to Tabarre — in about 15 minutes— past the US Embassy Complex and President Jean Bertand Aristide's house to the Ecole Nationale de Tabarre polling site. This time it was the UN and PNH who were caught napping. More interviews and empty booths.
After the Brazil/Italy match the polls also closed — at 4:00 PM — we went to three sites to look at the results. In Bel-Air, Building 2004 and Cite Soleil the results were identical, virtually no one had voted outside of the poll workers.
At the end of the day the results were unmistakable, how the government of Haiti can certify these results as being legitimate to fill the vacant Senate seats will be put into question next week when the expected results will draw protests from almost every quarter. Lavalas is clearly the predominant political organization. Everywhere we went people were NOT talking about the election or soccer, the only thing they wanted to know from us was when President Aristide would return.
Posted July 24, 2023