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Free Elections Processes in Haiti

The democratic elections, which are to be held in November of 2005, are of major importance to the country of Haiti. Haiti is a country that had claimed its independence from France 200 years ago and has had been overrun by dictators until the establishment of its first democratic election in 1990. With the help of the United Nations, Haiti hopes to finally establish a fair democratic society.

Haiti was originally called St. Domingue under France’s rule. And in January of 1804, it was the “world’s only successful slave revolt.” The new self proclaimed emperor, Dessalines, changed the name to Haiti. He created a constitution that recognized equality of everyone, regardless of color. After his assassination two years later the country was split in two: the north controlled by the blacks and the south that was ruled by the mulatto.

Between 1843 and 1915 there were 22 different leaders of Haiti. Only one had successfully fulfilled his designated term. The rest were either overthrown, killed or died during their term. These leaders had accomplished very little for the country. They did succeed in ignoring the Haitian constitution. They ruled the land with violence using private militias.

In 1915 President Woodrow Wilson sent soldiers to Haiti to ensure foreign interest. Essentially, for 19 years the United States ran Haiti by installing Haitian presidencies that were sympathetic to American needs. The United states had helped establish the Garde d’Haiti, which eventually took power in 1934 when the United states withdrew from Haiti.

After this government essentially failed, the new Haitian army took power in 1946. General Paul Magloire had governed the country until it held its first direct presidential election. Dumarsais Estime was the new president. After four years in power Magloire, with the help of the army and the upper class, took over. Magloire ruled until 1956, during this time period the country had seen a time of peace and prosperity.

In 1957 the military had rigged the next presidential election for Francois Duvaller. He quickly rewrote the constitution and proclaimed himself president for life. Duvaller kept power by threatening the public, killing 30,000 Haitians for political crimes. His government was characterized by its corruption. Before Duvaller died he proclaimed his son as the new ruler of Haiti. And in 1983 a new constitution was created. In 1986 the new Duvaller was ousted from the country and the new Haitian constitution was approved by popular vote in 1987. It was at this time the Haiti had originally planed for national elections, but had to abort due to Duvalier’s militia’s senior officers killing of dozens of voters at the polls. In 1988 Haiti went through three democratic leaders. Finally in December of 1990 Haiti held its first ever democratic election. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected and he took office in February of 1991. He was overthrown by General Raoul Cedras and Philippe Biamby, but was returned to power in 1994. Aristide had disbanded the military, as recomended by the United States. In the flawed election of 1996 Aristide’s first prime minister was elected president. By 2000 Aristide was elected president again due to fixed elections that contained roughly ten percent of the voters. Fighting broke out in February of 2004, an armed opposition threatened to take over the capital. Aristide left the country on February 29th. That night the Permanent Representative of Haiti asked for assistance from the United Nations.

The United Nations had adopted resolution 1529 which authorized the Multinational Interim Force(MIF.) The MIF is to help establish a constitutional political process and to help maintain a secure and stable environment. By March the Prime Minister had formed a 13 member transitional government. On behalf of the transitional government the Prime Minister had signed the Consensus on the Political Transition Pact which would hold municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections in 2005. The Pact will end the transitional governments term when the newly elected president takes office. Also, the Pact established measures to reconstruct the government during the transition period. The United Nations Secretary-General, had exclaimed that the Pact did not include all political movements or the need of a national dialogue. With these recommendations and of a survey done by the Security Council the United Nations had adopted resolution 1542 in April. This resolution   established the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and transferred power from the MIF to MINUSTAH in June.

The main points of the resolution that the department of peacekeeping operations (DPKO) should be consider with are:

1. secure and stabilize the environment

            - to assist the transitional Government in monitoring and restructuring of the Haitian Police

            - to assist the police in disarmament and other public security measures

            - to assist with the restoration of the rule of law, public safety and public order in Haiti

            - to protect United Nations personnel, facilities, installations and equipment

            - to protect civilians from the threat of physical violence within the areas of deployment

2. Political proces

            - to assist the transitional government in establishing a national dialogue

            - to assist the transitional government in organizing and carrying out free municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections

            - to assist the transitional government in extending the authority throughout Haiti and to support the government with these points the DPKO should be able to help bring about a democratic policy in Haiti.

Sources: - various articles

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