First modification: 06/29/2021 – 20:36
In the midst of a convulsive socio-political situation, Haiti will hold on September 26 the postponed presidential and legislative elections and a controversial constitutional referendum that seeks to reinforce the functions of the president. In January 2020, parliamentary activity was suspended and since then Jovenel Moïse has governed the poorest country in America without counter-powers.
After two postponements, on September 26, Haiti will hold presidential and legislative elections and a referendum to modify the Constitution, as announced by the country’s electoral authorities on June 28. The second round is scheduled for November 21 and local elections are postponed until January 2022, without any reason being made public.
The constitutional referendum that was scheduled for April was postponed to June 27 and subsequently reported sine die, with the argument of the health crisis. Finally, September 26 was set as the date to go to the polls, although with little certainty about what can be decided.
According to the French media ‘Le Monde’, the proposal for the new Magna Carta is still being drafted, but it revolves around reinforcing the president’s powers. Two already known draft bills proposed that the presidential elections be decided in a single round and that Parliament go from having two chambers to one.
The United Nations and the Organization of American States criticized the constitutional reform, promoted by the current president Jovenel Moïse, in office since 2017. The entities pointed out the lack of transparency in the consultation process of the new Magna Carta.
On the other hand, the current Constitution explicitly prohibits consultations to change the Basic Law. The text, drawn up in 1987 after three decades of the Duvalier dictatorship (1957-1986), literally mentions that “any popular consultation that seeks to modify the Constitution by way of a referendum is formally prohibited”, as stated in ‘Le Monde ‘.
The opposition and civil society also question the possibility of holding free elections. On the other hand, they call the presidential exercise illegitimate since February 2021, when the Superior Council of the Judiciary decreed the end of Moïse’s mandate. In addition, since January 2020 the president has governed without the presence of counterpowers, after the end of the parliamentary legislature that was not renewed.
“Haitian elections are regularly subject to delay, fraud and violence, and the political system as a whole is undermined by corruption. The criminal justice system lacks the resources, independence and integrity to maintain due process and guarantee the physical safety of the population. Protests against the government often result in excessive use of force by the police, ”notes Freedom House, organization that monitors the state of political freedoms in the world.
Elections in a context of long political and social crisis
The elections will take place in a context of political and social crisis that became visible in the summer of 2018, when the demonstrations began with the frustrated objective of overthrowing the president. Popular outrage was sparked by the rise in the price of gasoline and was fueled by a 2019 report that linked President Moïse’s companies to corruption cases.
Catalysts for protests that cannot be separated from the critical economic situation, aggravated by the pandemic, that the working class of the poorest country in America is experiencing. In response to the mobilization, Moïse has changed the prime minister six times.
The repression of the mobilizations, as well as the violence of armed groups against citizens in the face of state complicity or incompetence, generated a spiral of violence that continues to this day. The situation served as a pretext to postpone the legislative elections scheduled for 2019.
A suspension that has allowed the president to govern by executive decrees since January 2020, when activity in Parliament was suspended due to the end of the mandate of the congressmen and two-thirds of the senators.
Apart from the anti-government protests repressed by the Moïse executive for three years, different armed gangs are fighting for control of the west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. An aggravated conflict since the beginning of June.
The clashes have caused dozens of injuries, deaths and 17,000 displaced, according to the United Nations. On the other hand, the situation largely prevents communication from the south of the country with the capital.
The same civil armed violence led the organization Doctors Without Borders to temporarily close one of its centers in the capital after being the target of shootings on June 26. “While MSF teams were treating patients, armed individuals fired several shots in the direction of the emergency center,” the NGO said in a press release.
A large part of the people affected by forced displacement are the population that is still experiencing the consequences of the 2010 earthquake. A natural disaster that caused 976,000 deaths, 550,000 injuries and left 1.3 million people homeless.