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Support the Dominion
By Wadner Pierre
published by IPS
Photo by Wadner Pierre
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jul 30, 2010 (IPS) - After weeks of delays, Haitian President René Préval confirmed this month that presidential and legislative elections will take place on Nov. 28. The U.N. and Western donor nations are pledging millions of dollars in support of the polls, but with at least 1.5 million people still homeless from the January earthquake, questions loom over how to ensure voter participation.
In the last round of senatorial elections before the earthquake, less than three percent of the electorate participated. Fanmi Lavalas, widely seen as the most popular political party in the country, was excluded from the election on technical grounds, along with some other parties. Now, the party has again been banned from participating in the November polls.
International donors have expressed disappointment at Haiti's failure to hold inclusive elections, but have continued to fund them.
In recent weeks U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican member on the foreign relations committee, issued two reports recommending candidates from Fanmi Lavalas be allowed to participate. But his calls have been dismissed by Préval and the Provisional Electoral Council, the entity charged with organising elections.
On Wednesday, nearly one hundred Fanmi Lavalas supporters held a sit-in outside the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince.
"We come in front of the Embassy to ask President [Barack] Obama to take action because we didn't support him for this," said a woman identifying herself as Madeleine. "President Préval excludes us from the elections. We voted for him, but this isn't what we wanted."
by Wadner Pierre
As widely predicted, Haiti's senatorial elections of April 19 were boycotted by the overwhelming majority of the electorate. Two days ago, as if to deliberately invite more ridicule, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced that there were no winners in the first round for 12 vacant senate seats that were contested. Haiti has a 30 seat senate. A second round of the discredited elections will take place on June 7. However, the vote in the Haiti's Central Plateau has been cancelled due to fear of violence.
Government officials have claimed that turnout was 11% but many political organizations say it was 2-3% - consistent with a pre-election survey by the Florida-based advocacy organization Haiti Priorities Project (HPP). Regardless of the exact figure, no one is disputing that turnout was extremely low. U.S. Ambassador Janet Sanderson attempted to dismiss the significance of low turnout by saying
"Historically, off-year elections in the United States as well as in other countries tend not to be as well-attended as presidential elections. We'll have to see."
However, in 2006, turnout was 30%, according to UN officials, for legislative elections held months after Rene Preval won the presidency.
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, gently chastised the Haitian people.
"Indifference is harmful for a democratic process that requires a strong interaction between political actors and governments".
For those, not up to speed in politico-speak, a "message box" is a carefully crafted set of talking points which political parties and others use to get a specific message out in the media.
While the Canadian press found out in March "that the Conservatives Party was scripting call-in responses for supporters to read out on the air," the Globe and Mail has learned through a leaked e-mail that Conservatives are doing it again.
BC is currently in the midst of a huge election extravaganza. After the Federal Election this month, BC has faced two important provincial by-elections and will soon see municipal elections in Vancouver. A provincial election is set for next year.
In the mean time, housing has been creeping in as an important issue.
The NDP made it a major part of their platform in the provincial by-elections calling it a "huge issue" for voters. Mayoral candidates are facing off against condos to address the lack of rental housing. Special groups are pushing for better tenants rights, similar to those in Ontario.
Election signs get defaced and destroyed at an unparalleled rate in Montreal... but this is the first time I've heard of city officials taking part.
The Communist Party had some election signs up, with slogans like "Canada out of Afghanistan" and "End Canadian Support for Israeli Apartheid". Apparently, Westmount officials took them down.
If this is true, then Westmount has really stepped in it. Defacing or removing election signs is a criminal offense.
The press release:
Westmount on warpath against Communist candidate’s election posters
On September 28 & 29 2008, Westmount Public Security removed election posters of Communist Party of Canada candidate BILL SLOAN from public poles in the riding of WESTMOUNT-VILLE-MARIE.
The recently posted signs, duly Authorized by the registered agent of the Party, put forward his positions on Canadian policy concerning Afghanistan and Israel. In one case, "CANADA OUT OF AFGHANISTAN" and the other, "END CANADIAN SUPPORT TO APARTHEID ISRAEL".
The signs were removed by the Westmount administration without giving either the candidate or the Party notice, either before or after the removal. Bill Sloan learned of the City’s actions when the Westmount Independent published a note in its October 7-8, 2008 issue, mentioning that "Offensive" posters had been taken down by Westmont public security
" I called their public security on October 9 and spoke to the Director, Mr. Richard Blondin. He confirmed that his service had indeed removed my posters on September 28 and 29, but did not tell me what they had done with them. He declined to explain for what reasons or under what authority they had acted."
Al Giordano: If Obama wins, what next?
What will become of 10,000-plus (mostly) young organizers earning their subsistence keep working on this campaign after Election Day?
They've been trained well in the resurrected art of community organizing. It would be a shame if they just up and went to grad school instead of applying their new trade. How do we help make sure they don't scatter to the wind and can instead continue harnessing it in harmony with the new political majority about to emerge?
CKUT's Wednesday Morning After invited me to come and talk about the elections bright and early this morning. Voici mes talking points, albeit in more articulate form, not that I got to all of them:
Could Conservative fortunes have run out?
The impending economic problems in the US have caused many Canadians to turn to other parties. While the Conservatives are still leading nationally, they are behind the 8-ball in Ontario for the first time in months. The Liberals are leading by nearly nine percent.
In Quebec, the Conservatives have slipped to third, just two percent ahead of the NDP. The Bloc are leading.
In BC, the Tories are in a dead heat with the NDP.
"We are not in the kind of economic crisis we have in the US."
"Households in this country are so indebted that it's only a matter of time before we see a major downturn here as well."
"The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says the number of residential property sales declined 42.9 per cent in September from a year earlier."
A strange and incredible amount of information is flowing from the Guardian about the inner workings of the $700 billion deal between Republicans and Democrats to bail out the US economy.
It's tough to judge what is real and what is fake but there some incredible stuff coming out.
According to one report, a deal had been reached by all parties until a group of hard-right, free-market Republicans met privately with McCain and threw a new "free-market" proposal into the mix.
Their behaviour at the meeting was a study in contrasts, according to press accounts. Obama, granted deference by his fellow Democrats, led off the debate.
Then [Republican minority house leader] Boehner made his move, throwing down a plan that differed wildly from the one under discussion. McCain, asked for his opinion, stayed silent - and that, according to those at the meeting, was taken by his fellow Republicans as a sign of his support for the Republican revolt.
Ironically, a Republican on the Senate banking committee, Richard Shelby, was doing his best to paraphrase the thesis of Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine; that in a state of crisis the ideas lying around are the ones which get used:
"They're trying to push this in an emotional state, saying the sky's falling on our heads," he said. "Every time we have rushed to judgment in the past, we have paid for it."
Jon Stewart: "The press is 6-year-olds playing soccer; nobody has a position, it's just 'Where's the ball? Where's the ball? Sarah Palin has the ball!' [Mimes a mob running after her.] Because they can only cover one thing."
Stéphane Dion spoke this evening to a crowd of over 400 students at the University of British Columbia.
During the question period, I asked him if he would support a Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Colombia.
Dion (in English, he had previously answered in French):
"The question was about, uh, if we will accept a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia. The way it was negotiated by the Conservatives we have no guarantee at all that the basic rights will be respected through this agreement, the workers rights, and so on. It [sic] is why we can not accept it."
A new Ipsos Reid poll reveals that Canadians don't like too much about any of the leaders in the current federal election.
According to the Ottawa Citizen:
"Stephen Harper is a George W. Bush clone with a hidden agenda. Jack Layton is not the champion of the average "kitchen table" Canadian. Stéphane Dion is not a team player and is wrong on the environment and economy.
Those are the findings of a new poll that shows widespread dissatisfaction and disillusionment with Canada's three national party leaders currently vying for the job of prime minister in the federal election."
Or: The Coup D'Etat vs. The Liberal Plane
Members of the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake crashed Lawrence Cannon's press conference in Maniwaki yesterday, demanding a meeting with Cannon, an immediate leadership reselection process in the community, and for the Federal Government to uphold the shared use agreement it signed with the community. (Check out this photo essay for some background).
[If you're looking for election newsy, gossipy, scandalous coverage, don't despair. Read on. The juicy stuff is at the bottom.]
In June, people from Barriere Lake and several supporters occupied Lawrence Cannon's office in Buckingham, QC. Then, Cannon refused to meet, and two Algonquins and four supporters were arrested for refusing to leave until Cannon met with them. (Full disclosure: I was one of the supporters.)
Several other demonstrations were held, before and after, targeting Cannon and various other government officials. It all stems from when, in 2006-2007, the Feds imposed a minority faction as the government.
The background to this story is extensive. It is worth looking into, as it reveals some elementary but shocking truths about Canada's colonial policies and how they are intimately tied to control of natural resources.
Rabble.ca has been running a reasonably interesting Election Blog, written by everyone from Alternatives' Pierre Beaudet to the Indigenous Environmental Network's Clayton Thomas-Muller.
Democracy Watch has compiled a list of some of the legal loopholes and omissions that make the election process less democratic.
Derrick O'keefe had a good little editorial about making the war an election issue a few days ago.
The worth-always-reading Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui follows suit today with an excellent outline of the current state of the war.
As word of a civilian carnage spread, the U.S. dismissed it as "outrageous Taliban propaganda." Later it said, variously, that five insurgents had been killed, maybe seven, or perhaps seven civilians and 25 insurgents or 30 or 35.
The police chief in Herat put the toll at 90. The United Nations Special Representative for Afghanistan confirmed the news: "We found convincing evidence, based on the testimony of eyewitnesses and others, that some 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children."
Phone video footage emerged showing gruesome images of 40 bodies lined up in a mosque, "a majority of them babies and toddlers, some burned so badly they are barely recognizable," said the BBC.
The Canadian media remained mostly mute. Afghan TV naturally kept up with the story, and also that of the mounting public anger.
The opposition response to Harper's promise to pull out of Afghanistan completely by 2011 has so far drawn a response along the lines of "it won't actually happen, Harper will break the promise."
And that's probably accurate. Some military families seem to think so, anyway.
Globe: "A Web ad featuring a defecating bird and fallout over the Greens' exclusion from a televised leaders debate dominated Day 3 of the federal election campaign on Tuesday despite efforts by the two major parties to supplement nasty attacks with weightier content."
The media during an election is a bizarre spectacle indeed. The media decide that bird poop is a huge deal, and discuss it endlessly. Then, at the end of the day, they summarize their own coverage by saying that the substantial announcement were "dominated" or "overshadowed." The summary of their own reporting nonetheless gives top billing to the bird poop, and passing, insubstantial reference to the issues that it concedes are the only ones having any "weight".
In related news, Jack Layton flew a bunch of journalists over the biggest and most destructive industrial project in human history and we get a brief story with a few quotes. And we can be sure that without further prompting, no one will look into it further. The hundreds of journalists assigned to cover the election prefer, undoubtedly, to cover the latest gaffe or bird poop mini-scandal.
I would like to make one modest suggestion: election coverage doesn't have to look like this.
On the cover of yesterday's La Presse: Harper polling at 43% nationally, if election was held today he'd likely have a majority.
On the cover of today's La Presse: Julie Couillard's new book.
Inside spread: one of the Conservative candidates in Quebec is a member of Opus Dei, a secretive Catholic cult that seeks to place its members in positions of power, may or may not engage in ritual self-flagellation, keeps brainwashed women as wage slaves, and did they mention that they're very secretive?
Next page: ex-PMs and celebrities deplore Canada's "lack of action" on climate change. Also: Sierra Club gives Cons an "F+" grade on the environment.
Next page: Interview with a Liberal candidate and actor who was appointed by Conservatives, and was there just long enough to see how ideologically flawed the whole Conservative machine is. He quit to run for the Liberals.
Next full spread: Duceppe appeals to federalists to vote for the Bloc to stop Harper; Dion calls Harper a liar.
Arts and Culture section, front page: Interview with Liza Frulla, former Heritage Minister, discusses at length how inexperienced and damaging Josée Verner is.
From the Red Pepper Obama Blog:
The story of the left’s infatuation with Barack Obama follows an established storyline. So many hopes that "this time", things will be different: that Obama won’t be like Lula in Brazil in 2002 – who came to power on a Socialist platform only to bow to the power of global finance once in office; like Tony Blair in 1997, when a generation of progressives who’d grown up to hate Thatcher and the Tories could not but rejoice; the Green Party coming to power in Germany in 1998, where – no use in hiding it – I, too, had high hopes; the African National Congress in South Africa – backed by Communists, but soon a key driver of Neoliberalism in Southern Africa. So many hopes dashed. And yet, the infatuation continues…
The Conservatives have already identified seven issues for what seems like an imminent election this fall: Health Care, Child care, Tackling Crime, Lower Taxes, Environment, Accountability and Arctic Sovereignty.
Afghanistan, according to the Conservatives, isn't an election priority for Canadians. Filling the North with soldiers, warplanes, and tanks, apparently, is.
Snippets from Conservative messaging on the Arctic, meant to be sent by Canadians as letters to editors, include:
"I’m glad our government is finally seeing the potential of the Canadian Arctic and is making real plans to protect and defend it... A serious military presence is what we need and that’s what Stephen Harper is giving us... we have to show the world we have the military means to assert our sovereignty... Conservatives are talking about respect for our Northern governments, economic development, environmental protection and increased military presence as means to assert sovereignty in our Arctic..."
Photo art by Matt Davis.
Preliminary official results are showing that former Bishop Fernando Lugo has won the presidential elections that took place April 20 in Paraguay.
According to the Supreme Elections Tribunal in Paraguay, Lugo's party, the Patriotic Alliance for Change (APC) has an estimated 40.46% of votes, compared to 31.12% for Blanca Olevar's Colorado party and 21.8% for General Lino Oveido. This figure is still preliminary but includes 70.87% of the polling stations.
According to AP, "News broadcasts showed two minor scuffles outside polling places Sunday" but voting was generally peaceful.
Paraguayan news agency Jaku'éke reports today that "death threats to the Alliance Campaign are being followed through."
Alfredo Avalos, a journalist and organizer with the opposition presidential campaign remains in critial condition with gunshot wounds to his head, and his partner Silvana Rodríguez was killed last night in Curuguaty, in the state of Canindeyúby, 250km northeast of the capital, Asunción.
Avalos worked for Tekojoja, a movement which has allied with the opposition presidential campaign, Patriotic Alliance for Change (APC), headed by presidential candidate and former Bishop Fernando Lugo.
This is the second murder of a Tekojoja organizer in the last two months. Local police and officials refute that the killings were politically motivated.
According to Carrillo Iramain, an organizer in Canindeyúby "there are constant telephone messages, indirect messages and direct threats happening in these final days [before the elections]. This is an area where fear rules."
Elections are planned for April 20, 2008 in Paraguay.
The current government of the landlocked South American country is one of the strongest US allies in the region. The government has come under international scrutiny for allowing the setting up of US military bases in the country, near the Bolivian border.
UPDATE: A new article by Ben Dangl and April Howard: Dissecting the Politics of Paraguay's next President.
The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.