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Haiti’s newsreel : Political uncertainty

With the avalanche of presidential decrees in recent months comes a new poll on Haitians impression on the constitutional reforms that President Jovenel Moïse has been eager to get through as soon as possible, preferably in a referendum to take place in March 2021. According to the office of computer research and economic development, le Bureau de recherche en informatique et développement économique (BRIDES) the recent polls have their own share of surprises for the Haitian people, with some 87.4% of them in favor of a new constitution, 73.3% and 71.8% in favor of abolishing the office of the Prime Minister and the senate respectively.  As soon as this survey result was made public, doubts began to circulate as to its authenticity, if not its accuracy. The immediate impression is that the government is trying to prepare the public in such a way as to make selling the whole exercise less difficult. In effect, the government is embarking on a communications operation to rally the minds of the people towards embracing the idea of a new constitution. But the polling institution has a history of distrust among the people, so that most are skeptical about their current research and findings.

In order to counter the criticism from across the political spectrum, the head of the institution, Frantz Fortunat, said the institution has undertaken a rather thorough and scientific research. He said, though they could have carried out the research with a sample of 1,500 participants, they instead interviewed 14,400, aged between 18 and over, at a rate of 100 people per municipality, with data collection carried out in the field from November 27 through December 8, 2020. With a margin of error of 1%, Mr. Fortunat is confident in the scientific representation and accuracy of the findings, and that the study was not ordered by anyone other than an initiative of the institution. They asked him questions that are currently being debated by people, and the results are what they are – that the vast majority of the Haitian people are in favor of these reforms. According to analysts and experts at BRIDES, the entire political class is unanimous in the idea of changing the current constitution after more than 30 years of application, and that reality proves that the Constitution of 1987 is a source of instability, insecurity, poverty, disorganization of the physical space of Haitian territory, and it is also the main obstacle to progress and socio-economic development of Haiti. The head of the institution denounces the unique form of thought process that is currently dominant among some politicians, where the opinion of the majority no longer counts.

Elsewhere, Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe may have indicated that the commission charged with disarming gangs and criminals, may have failed at its initial mission. At a press conference held at the official residence in Musseau, the PM indicated that the national commission on disarmament, dismantling and reintegration, Commission nationale de désarmement, de démantèlement et de réinsertion CNDDR), discussed too much with the gangs and criminals and that no reintegration is possible for these outlaws. In his assessment of the commission’s work during the 8 months that he has been in office, it does not appear that the gangs have an incentive to be reintegrated into society, since their activities are more lucrative that mainstream businesses can boast of. To him, the only option then is to dismantle the gangs, and for this he is ready to do so, so that people can begin to move freely in their communities and not feel strapped, or worse, as human shields in the increasing boldness of the gang turf wars. For this, the PM promised to make available the report on current police operations in the Village de Dieu neighborhood in the capital, and not a partial report but a general assessment of the operations to allow people to feel free to move around the country. He confirmed having instructed the police to conduct searches on the national roads, so that a strong police presence everywhere will be effective in addressing the increasing security concerns. He particularly pointed to the neighborhoods of Bel-Air, Delmas 6, and Delmas 18, which were no go areas not long ago because the gangs controlled everything there.

Other issues addressed at the press conference included sanitation projects to be launched soon in the capital metropolitan area as well as the upcoming carnival 2021, which is expected to take place in Port-de-Paix. He said roadworks are underway to make sure the road is in good shape before the carnival. He also noted that the Ministry of Culture has been informed to help other cities to prepare for their carnivals as has been the custom. He further appealed to private businesses to engage and help organize the carnival in Port-au-Prince.

Finally, the Minister of Diaspora affairs, Mr. Gonzague Day, has reported that the right to vote by the diaspora will be enshrined in the new constitution, and this, according to him, will address the injustice towards compatriots living outside of the country. People who can prove that one or both of their parents are of Haitian origin, will be able to obtain a new national identity card at the airport. The process is said not to be very rigorous; a picture of the citizenship paper is enough to establish the ID, and the turnaround time is estimated at 4 days. The ministry is trying to engage the diaspora in the internal affairs of the country and promised that in January, it will embark on a conference to educate the diaspora on the proposed new constitution.

Dela Harlley

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