Decentralizing Haitian politics starts with the organizations of indirect elections, which creates an electoral pyramid compiling the country’s 568 communal sections into Councils of Administration of Communal Sections (CASECS) overseen by Communal Section Assemblies known (ASECS), which in turn are administered by Department Assemblies with voting powers at Interdepartmental Assemblies.
Indirect election is provisioned by articles 110 and follow of the constitution of 1987 as a political governance through which territorial collectives, urban neighborhoods or small communities of citizens vote for local electors who will select candidates at national echelons. In other words, individuals do not vote for candidates directly, choosing instead to put the decision in the hands of others.
Such governance gives small communities indirect voting powers to elect members for Permanent Electoral Councils (PECs) instead of having the President unconstitutionally and arbitrarily appointed members for Provisional Electoral Councils (CEPs).
The ASECS system is the foundation of Haiti’s political structure whose duty – among others – is to elect Department Assemblies, each Department Assembly proposing three names for Haiti’s nine-member Permanent Electoral Council (PEC).
According to the Haitian constitution of 1987, the PEC is an institution created to oversee elections. It is composed from a pool of 30 members elected by Haiti’s ten Department Assemblies, of whom nine are approved by the three branches (executive, legislative, and judicial) of the government.
Such a structure envisions that all parties of the country’s political arena are involved into shaping the PEC -and tough not directly elected by the people- PEC members will more likely originate from the mainstream instead of from the current government who is likely to pick members based on personal affiliations, friendship, or family ties.
However, due to political instabilities, lack of funds, and the physical inexistence of ASECS in the country since April 1997, a PEC had never been convened. In December 1997, Préval delayed the organization of another indirect election necessary for the creation of Haiti’s Permanent Electoral Council. He, without any legal or procedural justification, broke the consensual agreement between the political parties, civil society and the government to put in place a partisan electoral body ultimately comprised of nine personnel that he, himself, defined as originated from recognized Haitian sectors such as Protestants, Voodoo Practitioners, Catholics, Episcopalians, Women, Unions, Handicapped, or political parties.
From an institutional and legal point of view, ASECS -which are elected by the people- must have their say in the formation of the PEC so the current government exercises no hegemonic control over the members as it would have had over a CEP.
According to the constitution of 1987, ASECS emerges as an integral part of Haiti political system and must be effectively aligned with the objectives of the people in their pursuit of democracy. It leads to efficiency, decreases corruption, and empowers the PEC to bridge all sectors of the country with the current government in order to improve organizational accountability, prevent electoral fraud, thwart government micro-management, and keep Haitian leadership in checks.
In the absence of ASECS coupled with department assemblies in Haitian politics, the country would once more be dragged far down the path of unconstitutionality, electoral manipulation, informality of government and thus arbitrariness.
Relating to political governance, the ASECS system can strengthen relationships between the central government and communes where all institutions will operate according to the constitution and where mayors and section chiefs will have a voice.
Haiti’s new democracy cannot continue to exist without indirect elections or the political decentralization of territorial collectives, which possess the means to help urban neighborhoods to be heard through their representatives.
Bobb Q Rousseau