For the past year and a half, Haiti’s political scene has been in turmoil. The electoral process to select a new president, all seats in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, mayors countrywide plus over 1,200 local elections, which began in late 2015, was marred by numerous delays and postponements as well as both widespread suffering and by damage to electoral infrastructure inflicted by Hurricane Matthew in the southwest of the country.
Despite these many obstacles, the Government of Haiti and the Provisional Electoral Council worked effectively and responsibly to overcome organizational challenges in these elections, which the Organization of American States Electoral Observation Mission noted in its preliminary report were an “important milestone for the consolidation of democratic institutions in Haiti.”
Although longer-term electoral reforms are still needed, Haiti is finally poised in 2017 to return to constitutional, democratically elected government with the benefits for stability and development that democratic accountability will bring.
On February 7, when President-elect Jovenel Moïse was sworn in as Haiti’s 58th president, Haiti also gained a recently elected legislature, with which the new president can work to reset the future of Haitian democracy and development.
“In 2017, Haiti turns the page. For the next five years, stakeholders in Haiti have a choice. They can work together toward the common good of the nation, or they can sacrifice the interests of the Haitian people for individual advancement,” notes Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten.
The Haitian people have a chance to progress, to strengthen their democracy, and to learn from the past even as they continue to move forward.
Haiti Special Coordinator Merten recalls that “over two hundred years ago, the father of the Haitian Revolution, Toussaint L’Ouverture, demonstrated leadership by reminding early Haitian patriots to ‘reflect on the disasters which may ensue from longer obstinacy.’”
“There is no need to forsake Haiti’s 213 years of accumulated nationhood by not heeding such sage advice,” Ambassador Merten reminds us. “Let us allow the wind to fill Haiti’s sails and support its new leaders in setting the course.”