By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- A group of Haitian senators, opposed to the administration of President Michel Martelly, continue to block an electoral process that is crucial for Haiti’s democratic future, as any failure to hold the elections will cause Parliament to become totally dysfunctional by the beginning of next year, and may plunge the Caribbean country in a deep political crisis likely to jeopardize its social and economic development goals.
President of Haiti's Senate Dieuseul Simon Desras
Several senators – among them Franky Exius, Jean-Baptiste Bien-Aime, John Joel Joseph, Wesner Polycarpe and Moise Jean-Charles – have been accused of blocking, for political reasons, efforts to organize a balloting to renew two-thirds of the 30-member senate and the entire 99-member Lower Chamber, as well as hundreds of local government entities throughout the country.
Those parliamentarians have been using a tactic that has prevented the senate from reaching the 16 senator-quorum required to hold a session, blocking at same the time the assembly from approving amendments to an existing electoral law to facilitate the holding of the elections by the end of the year. The same group succeeded on Thursday in blocking such session from taking place just by not showing up.
“These senators are paid by taxpayers’ money to come to work and vote laws in the interest of the population,” Senator Andrice Riche, of the People’s Struggle Organization (OPL) moderate opposition party, told the Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN) on Thursday.
“This is parliamentary delinquency taken to its apogee. Those senators continue to refuse to assume their responsibility and this behavior is evil and unworthy of the function they hold,” said Riche, visibly frustrated.
Several other senators had similar reactions, joining in blaming the recalcitrant and “extremist” lawmakers for blocking the organization of the elections. Even the president of the Senate, a fierce opponent of Martelly’s administration, also called on opposition senators to pass the proposed amendments.
Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe on Thursday renewed calls for the urgent approval of the proposed amendments required for the holding of the ballot.
However, the senators, boycotting the senate session, argued that the procedures used to establish the current electoral council, tasked with organizing the elections, violated the constitution and that a new panel should be appointed according to specific constitutional criteria they proposed, even though the senate they are part of has been involved in the setting up of the current council.
As a matter of fact, one of the three representatives appointed by Parliament, Max Mathurin, specially picked by the senate, has become the president of the nine-member electoral council, also comprised of three representatives of the executive branch and three chosen by the judiciary – a provisional council inspired from the Permanent Electoral Council required by the constitution.
“For us, there has not yet been a constitutional electoral council to hold the elections. So we are waiting for the appointment of a constitutional council before deciding on the electoral amendments,” said senator Franky Exius, from the opposition group.
Exius said his group wanted to participate in the scheduled session even though they were not ready to cooperate in passing the amendments, while his colleague Moise Jean-Charles, one of the government’s most radical opponents, explained that the idea to work on such amendments has now been completely rejected by his group.
“It is clear that the idea of presenting the electoral amendments is dead. If there is any session where they plan to discuss that bill, we will not attend,” Senator Jean-Charles told HCNN.
However, a clause in an internationally acclaimed political agreement clinched earlier this year by political protagonists, during an inter-Haitian political dialogue, provides that election authorities may bypass inapplicable provisions of the existing law and take appropriate measures to organize the inescapable balloting, should Parliament fail to pass the necessary amendments.
The reluctant senators have aligned with the position of political hardliners from parties – such as the Lavalas Family party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the Progressive Nationalist Democratic Party (RDNP) led my Mirlande Manigat – which have repeatedly called for the ouster of the current elected government.