Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Populism without popularity: A note about some recent coverage of Haiti

Reading a February 17th Reuters article datelined Port-au-Prince, I was interested to note that the dispatch characterized the Fanmi Lavalas party of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as “the country's most popular political party.” As Fanmi Lavalas is a shadow of its former strength, riddled by internal divisions, I was wondering exactly how Reuters arrived at such a statement.

In Haiti’s 2006 parliamentary elections (the country's last nationwide ballot), Fanmi Lavalas gained only 4 seats in the country's senate, the same amount as political parties such as the Fusion des Sociaux-Démocrates Haïtienne (FUSION) and the Organisation du Peuple en Lutte (OPL). By comparison, the Lespwa party of Haitian President René Préval won 11 seats. In Haiti's lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, Fanmi Lavalas failed to win a single seat in 6 of the country's 9 departments, while Lespwa won seats in all but two. and Fusion won seats in six departments. In the Chamber, Lespwa garnered a total of of 19 seats, the Alliance Démocratique (Alyans) took 13 seats and the OPL 10 seats. Fanmi Lavalas won only 6 seats.

Anyone have any thoughts on what math would thus justify referring to Fanmi Lavalas as Haiti’s “most popular political party?”


Anonymous said...

Mr. Dielbert,
I too, am puzzled about the math. It is refreshing to find independant thought and objectivity in a blog about Haïti, my home. By the way, the title "POPULISM WITHOUT POPULARITY", says it all.
Thank you for your blog, looking forward to future postings.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that you noted that!

What I have found bizarre is that so many people are still arguing for Aristide's return as if anyone is preventing him from doing so. While it is true that président Préval refused to give him any guaranty of immunity from prosecution he has repeatedly and accurately quoted the constitution which specifically prohibits exile as a form of punishment. What exactly is preventing Aristide from returning to Haiti?

Why is lavalas mobilizing people to ask for the return of Aristide instead of focusing on the very real and perennial issues of unemployment, poverty, hunger and lack of basic services.

In this latest saga, the party (ies) is revealing itself for what it always was, a vehicle for the advancement of the few at the expense of the vast majority.

Then, they have the unmitigated gall to ask for special treatment! Despite the fact that they created their own mess, they are managing to blame others for their own disaster and are creating another crisis for Haiti! As if we needed that!

I am sick and tired of these people essentially holding our country hostage and then, acting as eternal victims with the complicity of the international community. The worst part of it, is that underlying the stance of said community is not concern for democracy or the rule of law but the fear that they will use violence to disrupt and destroy whatever meager gains we've made in terms of stability. With their shenanigans, they've already managed to compromise the upcoming elections.

All Lavalas factions should have gone to court prior to registering candidates to resolve their internal problems when it became clear that they would not reach a consensus. Based on the available information, The CEP acted as wisely as it could since none of the factions seem to have any legal legitimacy.

P.S. the level of attendance to lavalas rallies is a testament to our failure in addressing the crippling unemployment rate in Haïti.