Don’t Let “Baby Doc” Distract. We Really Ought to Be Paying Attention to Haiti’s Electoral Dispute

I have no special insight into why Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier returned to Haiti this week after a twenty-five year exile. Considering that his return promptly resulted in his arrest and arraignment before a Haitian judge for corruption and embezzlement charges, I honestly don’t think he knew what he was doing either.

The thing is, this Baby Doc stuff is really just a side show to far more important political developments in Haiti.   Last week, the Organization for American States sent the results of a investigation of the first round of Haiti’s November 28 presidential election. The apparently found very serious impropriety.

The way Haitian electoral law works is that if no candidate secures 50% of the vote in a first round, the top two vote-getters face each other in a subsquent election.  The government-announced results claimed that the run-off should be between the government-backed candidate Jude Celestine and former first lady Mirlande Manigat.  Based on its investigation, the OAS claims Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, a pop singer, placed second in the balloting.  Jude Celestine, therefore, should be nixed in favor of Sweet Micky.

The Haitian government has been dragging its feet over this report the past few days.  So much so that the Susan Rice at the UN yesterday issued this fairly stern warning to the government of Haitian president Rene Preval:

The United States welcomes the report of the OAS verification mission. Its findings offer a way forward towards improving credibility and public confidence in the presidential electoral process in Haiti.  We urge the Provisional Electoral Council to review and implement the OAS report’s recommendations. Sustained support from the international community, including the United States, requires a credible process that represents the will of the Haitian people, as expressed by their votes.

Keep in mind that Preval’s government has heretofore been fairly strongly supported by the United States and the United Nations.  He seems to be playing with fire right now, which is not a great thing considering how dependent Haitians are on sustained international aid.