Putting it all together for Haiti in the upcoming elections
By Father Juan Molina, O.Ss.T.*
The upcoming November 2010 elections in Haiti have created a buzz. From the disqualification of singer Wyclef Jean to the fate of political party Lavalass, people have been talking! And yet, the talk really focuses on what having the elections would accomplish and how they could be used as a catalyst for a much deeper national (and international) conversation on the future of Haiti.
Almost nine months after the earthquake, faith based organizations and other civil society actors are still very much engaged in helping those affected by the earthquake to recover. Not much time and effort have really been put into preparing for the elections and encouraging people to get involved in that process. Yet, it is a process that is very much necessary and could prove to be critical.
Many Haitians have expressed wariness with the upcoming elections, but the real dissatisfaction seems to be deeper. While the concerns with the elections seem to focus primarily on the usual “trusting government” issues, much of the discussion also focuses on the need to work for concrete results in the country. Many community based organizations and individuals told a recent USCCB delegation to Haiti that there seems to be dissatisfaction with would-be candidates and the electoral process itself. But people also wondered whether more elections would really bring a change in terms of development and stability to the country.
Many of these people expressed the need for a country-wide process of dialogue and “sharing” of resources, power, and energies among all actors as a precursor to elections could that could then signal a real change in the direction of the country. While the role of the Haitian Diaspora can play in such a dialogue seems to be important, there were also reservations regarding their particular. The overall impression is that the elections in the absence of real national dialogue would be simply a “pro-forma” democratic process at best. Simply having elections will not allow Haiti to emerge from the earthquake crisis and move towards sustainable development. “The upcoming elections are important for the stability of a democratic government,” many people said, but it seems they want more than the power to vote. They want to create a future together. People want a transparent electoral process. But they also want to move beyond that to a process of dialogue that can help Haiti and its government find solutions to the challenges of good governance, development, and inclusion.
The role that civil society and church communities could play to create a safe space for national dialogue about the elections and a real development plan for Haiti is critical.
*Father Juan Molina, O.Ss.T., is foreign policy advisor for Latin America and Global Trade in the International Justice and Peace Office at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops