Congresswoman Waters Urges State Department to Support Elections in Haiti
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), a strong advocate for the Haitian people in the U.S. Congress, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry today, expressing deep concern about the current political situation in Haiti and requesting that the State Department assist the Haitian government with the holding of elections consistent with the Haitian Constitution. Copies of the letter were sent to Cheryl D. Mills, the State Department’s Haiti Envoy, and Thomas C. Adams, Haiti Special Coordinator.
I am writing out of deep concern about the political situation in Haiti and to request that the State Department do everything possible to be of assistance to the Haitian government to hold elections consistent with the Haitian Constitution.
I am especially concerned about the political challenges currently facing the Haitian Senate. Under the Haitian Constitution, the Senate should consist of thirty Senators, each of whom is elected to serve for six years. However, one third of the seats in the Senate are currently vacant. These ten Senators’ terms ended in 2012, and Haiti has yet to hold – or even schedule – elections to replace them. This has forced the Senate to function with only two thirds of its full complement and made it extremely difficult for the Senate to assemble a quorum and conduct legislative business. A second group of ten Senators took office in 2009, and their six-year terms are scheduled to expire in 2015. Unfortunately, it appears that elections to replace these Senators may not be held on schedule either.
There is a widespread rumor within Haiti and among the Haitian diaspora that the Haitian government does not intend to allow the Senators elected in 2009 to serve out their full six-year terms. This rumor has it that the government intends to force these ten Senators to leave office in January of 2014, leaving the Senate completely unable to function, and this renews old concerns about rule by dictatorship.
Such rumors can be extremely destabilizing in Haiti. Because of the country’s past history of dictatorship and political instability, the Haitian people are justifiably suspicious of actions by political leaders that appear to be undemocratic. The failure to hold elections to fill vacancies in the Senate is contributing to fear among the population that democracy may once again be in jeopardy. Free, fair, inclusive, and timely elections are critical for Haiti’s economic and social development.
As you know, I have worked closely for many years with my colleagues in Congress, the State Department, Haitian political leaders, and civil society to promote political stability, democracy, and the rule of law in Haiti. When I learn of developments that threaten to undermine democracy and the rule of law, I have always tried to make certain that we do everything possible to help Haiti continue in its struggle to become a stable, constitutional democracy.
I respectfully request that the State Department encourage Haiti to respect the rights of all Senators to serve out their full six-year terms, organize timely elections to replace Senators and other elected officials at all levels of government whose terms have expired, and take all appropriate action to ensure that the Haitian Senate is able to fulfill its constitutional duties.