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Opinion

Haiti presidential election: justice on the line

Raymond Joseph, Haiti's former ambassador to the United States (and Wyclef Jean's uncle), explains why he and other presidential candidates were unfairly disqualified from running.

By Raymond A. Joseph / September 9, 2010



Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Outgoing Haitian President René Préval has set the presidential elections for Nov. 28, 2010 and technical preparations are underway. But Haiti has failed the first fundamental test in holding credible elections – certifying candidates, and affording each due process under the law, equally and without discrimination.

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On Friday August 20, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Commission (CEP) rejected, without any justification or explanation, the candidacy of 15 potential presidential candidates. The list of those disqualified included former Haitian government officials including me, high-profile public figures like my nephew, Wyclef Jean, as well as doctors, lawyers, and prominent persons from the diaspora.

For some disqualified candidates, a constitutional justification could be argued, though the CEP has historically interpreted the constitution at will. In other cases, such as mine, the decision appears blatantly arbitrary, without legal grounding, and motivated by the political agendas of a small ruling elite.

My case is indicative. The explanation for my disqualification, which has since been provided to me after I initiated legal proceedings, is that I did not properly discharge my responsibilities when I resigned from office as Haiti’s Ambassador to the United States on August 1.

This is untrue; a charge which could be immediately disregarded if the CEP was willing to review signed and dated correspondence between Haiti’s foreign minister and me. More troubling to me and others however, is that other Haitian government officials, some of whom did not even resign their official posts, were promptly qualified without such criteria.

"Haiti – No Leadership, No Elections"

The CEP’s disqualification of certain candidates plainly disregards the urging of Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana, ranking Republican of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. On June 10, 2010 Senator Lugar authored a report entitled, “Haiti – No Leadership, No Elections.” In a transmittal note to his Senate colleagues he cautioned that, “the positive effect of assistance programs will be limited if Haiti lacks a responsible, popularly elected government.”

Mr. Lugar urged the government of President Préval to move forward with a Nov. 28, 2010 election date, and empower the CEP to initiate preparations for electoral lists, identification cards, and voter education in advance of the election.

The senator also urged President Préval to undertake appropriate restructuring of the CEP to demonstrate a clear political commitment to contesting credible elections.

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