Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Democracy On the Frog March

George Bush has often and proudly proclaimed democracy to be "on the march." He did this after the first Iraq election and he has held fast to this belief. But three, three, stories arose today that speak of a White House administration that is either ignoring the signs that democracy, far from marching, is being curtailed, or beaten to pulp, in Haiti, Egypt and Palestine.

In the latter case, the White House itself is planning to actively subvert the Palestinian elections that brought Hamas to power. To the White House, democracy is only good when acceptable results are produced.

In Egypt, Mubarak has just declared that local "elections" will now be postponed for two years. This, after the recent debacle of democracy that Mubarak had engaged in when he had police forces repulse voters in neighbourhoods that were supportive of his main opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood. Several deaths were reported after police had opened fire on voters in various locations. The US officials, aka Condi Rice, sat back while this went on, tsk-tsked Mubarak but tacitly approved it because, ultimately, the US no more wants to see the Muslim Brotherhood makes gains in Egypt than does Mubarak. The White House certainly would not want to loose one of its allies in the War on Terror, which means, of course, an ally to where the CIA can render detainees, no questions asked.

And in Haiti, there can be no good result for the Bush administration in a fairly run election; it will result in a government precisely at odds with the business interests of Haiti and will most definitely produce lefty economic policies, much as has come to pass in a number of Latin American countries, that will be decidedly contrary to Bush administration philosophy. Which means, of course, that the Haitian elections are now presenting some "irregularities."

The US orchestrated the 2004 ouster of the democratically-elected Jean Bertrand Aristide by covertly supporting "rebels" opposed to the Aristide government. These rebels, in fact, were a band of mercenaries and paramilitary thugs, many of whom were involved with the first coup of Aristide's government in 1991 and received backing from then President GHW Bush's administration. After a few years of bloody military rule, Clinton reinstalled Aristide after the Haitian leader agreed to a number of economic strictures that followed the lines of IMF/World Bank conditions. Despite his distaste for such an economic noose, Aristide agreed and Haiti lived and suffered by these strictures until the election of 2000. With his re-election in 2000, in which he garnered 90% of the popular vote, Aristide disavowed the economic conditions imposed by the Clinton administration.

After deciding that Aristide was getting far too uppity for their liking, spending money on schools and hospitals, the Bush administration began a clandestine program designed to, once again, destabilise the Aristide government and bring down Haiti's struggling democracy:
Since the election of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2000, the United States has moved to sabotage Haiti's fledgling democracy through an economic aid embargo, massive funding of elite opposition groups, support for paramilitary coup attempts, and a propaganda offensive against the Aristide government. Hidden from the headlines for years, this campaign has now become an open effort to destroy a popularly elected, progressive government.
The US has always supported the business elite in Haiti, a small but wealthy collection of land and business owners, and it was this group who detested the progressive policies of Aristide. Many of this group, the so-called "Group of 184," were directly involved, not only in the original 1991 coup, but in the 2004 one as well. And a coup d'etat was a fairly easy task this latest time, as Aristide had disbanded Haiti's military in October 1994, immediately after he regained his presidency via the Clinton agreement. The US military was again used to install Aristide as it had been used to help uninstall him in 1991.

Current presidential candidate Charles Henri Baker is one member of the Group 184 and, in pulling only 8% of the vote in the current Haitian election, was the only one claiming voting irregularities.

Until now. Former Aristide prime minister and Haiti's president from 1996 - 2001, Rene Preval, was looking to be the clear winner in the current round of elections in Haiti last week. Polls showed that Preval was receiving 63+% of the vote while Baker's numbers hovered between 6-8%. Oddly, it was at this point Baker began to protest the vote. Preval appeared to be a shoe-in in the first round, a run-off constitutionally mandated if no candidate receives 50% of the first round vote.

But as the weekend progressed, Preval's numbers dropped precipitously and, with 90% of the vote in, he has apparently garnered only 48% of the vote. This will mandate a run-off, though Baker seems unlikey to be the opponent, as he still trails second place candidate Leslie-Fran├žois Manigat, who is polling at about 12% of the popular vote. To say this looks suspicious is putting it midly. While the other two candidates percentage of the vote did not change at all as the count progressed, Preval's number dropped.

Preval is charging that spoiled and blank ballots are being used in the vote total, which is driving down Preval's percentage. But that should also drive down other candidate's percent of the total, so it is not at all clear just what is going on Haiti. Which is not unusual. US officials, of course, claim that everything is "in order," though it remains unclear just what US officials think "order" actually is in Haiti.

American administrations have screwed with Haiti's democracy so often is quite difficult to keep track of it all. And it is equally uncertain what they think they'll get by trying to rig this election. Though a run-off now seems likely, despite the growing anger of Preval supporters who clearly smell an electoral rat, Preval cannot possibly loose that round when his two closest rivals come in at 12% of the vote or less. What does seem likely is that a second round run-off will further postpone the election of an Aristide protege.

But this will give US interests time to do what, exactly? The candidate of their liking is getting no more than 10% of the vote and he won't even make the run-off election round. As with Iraq, the US cannot seem to back any candidate with broad popular appeal, mostly because doing so runs counter to US interests.

The question then becomes, once Preval is made president, when will the next coup take place?

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