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  • Haitian Elections Move Forward No Thanks to Aristide

    After hitting some minor speed bumps, the Haitian runoff election ran more smoothly than anticipated on Sunday, March 20.

    The run-off candidates, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly and former first lady Mirlande Manigat, are still neck and neck in the race to become Haiti’s next president. For a while, the dramatic return of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide threatened to disrupt the process. Fortunately, observers have verified that the results announced on April 16 will be accurate.

    Fourteen months after the destructive Haitian earthquake, the Haitian people faced a choice between a showy pop star (Martelly) and a matronly academic (Manigat) to lead their country to higher ground. The 50-year-old pop singer Martelly ran a well-funded, energetic campaign as a political outsider bringing a fresh, youthful, but many fear entirely inexperienced perspective to Haitian politics. His appeal to a younger demographic was evident when hundreds of frenzied supporters filled the streets to cheer his arrival at the ballots.Former first lady and university professor Manigat, 70, presented herself as a more experienced alternative. Both candidates promise free education, jobs, and housing for the 800,000 people still housed in temporary camps following the earthquake. They will also be challenged to run a Haitian state that works and lives on life support from the international community.

    The first round of elections in November were nightmarish. It took months for the Haitians and President Rene Preval, prodded by an Organization of American States (OAS) mission and with some arm-twisting by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to see through the haze of fraud and mistakes to select the run-off candidates.

    Just as local conditions seemed relatively stable heading into Sunday’s run-off election, it appeared that the announcement of Aristide‘s homecoming might capsize the ship. Despite President Obama’s best diplomatic efforts—including a March 15 telephone call to South African President Jacob Zuma urging a delay in Aristide’s return trip until after the election—Aristide returned to Haiti in the company of American actor and Castro/Hugo Chavez aficionado Danny Glover from seven years of exile. Aristide’s arrival just days before the election raised the concern that his supporters would refuse to vote or would carry out disruptions.

    Aristide’s long-term ambitions are unclear, but his track record of combativeness, polarization, and populism is far from encouraging. Voices sympathetic to Aristide are already attempting to undercut the legitimacy of the elections.

    The comparative success of the elections offers hope for a peaceful democratic transition after the preliminary results are announced in March 31 and finalized on April 16. A sizeable percentage of voting centers throughout the country experienced problems with missing ballots and delayed starts. There was no widespread fraud, but dry ink pads and overzealous political supporters did obstruct the voting in some locations. Still, the head of the OAS observer mission, Colin Granderson, confirmed that the second round was “much improved from the first.” “Democracy is on the brink of winning a big victory in our country,” said Provisional Electoral Council head Gailot Dorsinville.

    The victor will face the daunting challenge of revitalizing the Haitian economy, housing the displaced, employing international aid to build anew, standing up a government, and preventing a further flare-up of cholera once the rainy season begins again.

    Sadly, in his “signal speech” on Latin American policy in Santiago, Chile, President Obama had little to say about Haiti other than to note the holding of elections.

    Co-authored by Ashley Mosteller. Mosteller is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to Haitian Elections Move Forward No Thanks to Aristide

    1. Wadner Pierre says:

      Dear Ray,

      I hope you could be in Haiti, if you weren't to see how Haitian people welcome their Leader, former President Dr. Jean- Bertrand Aristide and his family. Please, plea stop writing this Biased article while pretending you care for Haitian people. Look at what your leaders have been doing in Haiti for the hundreds of years. How can Aristide be a polarizing figure in Haiti? What About Bill Clinton, who is him, the savior of Haiti?

      I personally talked to a UN official while I was visiting the poll stations, he said " They congratulated Aristide and his supporters for this peaceful welcoming demonstration." Again, it can have money, but you can't buy people's will. The March 20 elections was marked by the low turnout, though the millions of dollars your friends in the International Community spent.

      Haiti needs peace, not war. We need people you can talk about reconciliation not war like you did in your article.

      I hope one day you can understand your works could be perfect and helpful without violent and peacefulness word.

      Thank you, without knowing you, i think you can write a better analysis.

    2. Jim, Ottawa, Canada says:

      FOR THE UNITY AND THE HAITIAN RECONCILIATION

      March 21, 2011

      Open letter to all past Presidents of the Republic of Haiti

      On this special occasion for the swearing-in of the newly elected president of Haiti, considering the importance for the Haitian people to unite and reconcile while facing this extraordinary challenge to rebuild their country, it is hoped that all past Haitian Presidents still alive would join to the newly elected president during the swearing-in ceremony and shake hands. This would be an event without precedent in Haitian history.

      In view of the divisive nature for the past many years of Haitian politics, and following the January 12th 2010’s earthquake and the extraordinary challenges Haitians are facing and will continue to face during the rebuilding of their country, this letter is addressed to the following persons:

      President Jean Claude Duvalier

      President Francois Leslie Manigat

      President Prosper Avril

      President Ertha Pascal Trouillot

      President Jean Bertrand Aristide

      President Alexandre Boniface

      President René Garcia Préval

      And the newly elected President

      Your presence on the podium during the May 14th 2011’s swearing-in ceremony will show not only your patriotism, but will bring forth a clear and unambiguous message to all Haitians, whatever their political leaning, of the necessity to unite above politics for this Haitian renaissance, which is spelled out quite beautifully in our national motto “L’union fait la force”, “United, we are strong”.

      The challenge is now yours.

      Sincerely

    3. Beth Cioffoletti, US says:

      Oh come on, what are you so afraid of? Poor people???

      Washington's bid to keep Aristide out of Haiti before Sunday's vote was a mistake.

      Aristide gave voice and confidence to the many Haitian poor, so that they might participate in self government. His return is an historic victory for democracy and self determination. His return marks an end to the era when the United States gets to choose the political leaders of other countries.

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