HAITI'S ELECTIONS Sunday were pretty much a farce. Large numbers of voters, weary and intimidated, went neither to the polls nor into the streets. Evidence of fraud and confusion was widely available. Leading independent candidates abstained rather than take part and confer respectability on a charade organized by the military council that has presided over what was meant to be a brief and effective transition from the dictatorship of the Duvaliers to democratic rule.
There was, conceivably, a chance for better. After the military council led by Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy broke its word and failed to conduct fair elections in December, the United States, stung, suspended most official aid to Haiti -- a vigorous if tardy response to the military's corruption and cynicism. But it was never possible or right that the United States alone could swing the Haitian authorities, who took quick refuge in Latin America's resistance to anything that might be called -- or miscalled -- Yankee intervention. The members of the Organization of American States are, to their discredit, looking the other way. Canada, an important patron of Haiti, rejected the Sunday results in Port-au-Prince. If only members of the OAS (Canada is not a member) would do the same.
And now? Gen. Namphy is a clever man. The civilian candidate the army is supporting, a former professor named Leslie Manigat, has the anti-Duvalier credentials to make him seem a somewhat plausible leader in a context where the choices have been coolly narrowed. Yet, if he is confirmed as the victor, he would have no popular mandate and he could not escape the label of military's pet. It seems that the states of the OAS are leaning to the conclusion that a Manigat presidency, for all of its evident shortcomings, is at least better than what preceded it. If that is the view, however, the OAS comes under a heavy obligation to call on the Haitian authorities to move promptly to respectable elections in which the will of the people will be observed more closely. The current travail of Panama shows precisely the high disabilities and costs of a process in which the army uses force and fraud to flout the popular will.
For the United States, it would be a mistake to end its aid suspension so long as Haiti's military cast dominates the political scene; there's no money for Haiti in the aid budget Congress passed anyway. The democratic elements in Haiti deserve that gesture of solidarity. Meanwhile, they should be asking their friends in Latin America and the Caribbean what they plan to do to help the democratic cause.