Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Haiti politics: Electoral tumult persists

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on December 16, 2010

by The Economist Intelligence Unit, December 14th, 2010.

The presidential election that was supposed to put Haiti on a path to recovery, both political and economic, has simply added more to the turmoil that has afflicted the country since an earthquake hit in January. The disputed first-round vote has triggered protests and some violence, as many Haitians believe it was rigged to favour the preferred candidate of the current president, René Préval. The weeks ahead will be particularly perilous, as the electoral authorities and international monitors prepare for a January 16th run-off. The entire process could set back hopes for getting long-delayed reconstruction aid flowing to the country.

The results of the November 28th elections, released on December 7th, showed the top two vote-getters to be Mirlande Manigat, an academic and former first lady, and Jude Célestin, a relatively unknown bureaucrat who heads the state-run construction company. Among the field of 19 candidates, Mrs Manigat went into the election among the favourites, along with Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, a popular musician. Mr Célestin appeared to be lagging behind as a result of the plunging popularity of Mr Préval, whom many Haitians believe has performed poorly in response to the devastating earthquake and a cholera outbreak that erupted in November.

The official election results showed Mrs Manigat in the lead with 31.37%, Mr Célestin second with 22.48% and Mr Martelly a close third with 21.84%. Consequently, when the results were announced, supporters of Mr Martelly and some of the other rivals immediately took to the streets.

Even before the tally was announced, 12 of the presidential candidates had joined together to complain about irregularities and demand that the election be annulled. They alleged that polling stations had opened late or never opened; ballots were pre-filled on behalf of Mr Célestin; voter lists were doctored; citizens were unable to obtain voter identification cards; and ballots and other materials were in short supply. (continue reading… )

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