Leading Haiti candidates are study in contrasts

Haitian voters mulled a stark choice Saturday as they prepared to pick a new leader to rebuild a nation crippled by mismanagement, natural disaster, economic stagnation, and now cholera.

At the head of the 18-strong presidential field are a 70-year-old academic and former first lady who could become Haiti's first woman leader, and a young technocrat plucked from obscurity to be the ruling party candidate.

The elections come as Haiti battles a cholera outbreak that has claimed 1,648 lives and is yet to peak. It is also the first election since a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake in January killed 250,000 people.

The challenges facing the successor to President Rene Preval are immense and the stakes of the election could not be higher for a nation where 80 percent of the population lives off less than two dollars a day.

A line, twice as long as earlier in the week, snaked down from the police station in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville as people waited for identification cards they need to vote in Sunday's national elections.

Posters of Jude Celestin, who rose to prominence when Preval picked him to head a task-force charged with the road-clearing and rebuilding operations after the quake, smile down from nearly every street corner in the capital.

Tens of thousands of Haitians gathered for a rally Thursday for the 48-year-old ruling INITE (UNITY) party candidate that included nearly four hours of song and dance, and just 10 minutes of political speech.

"Jude Celestin is an engineer," said Bej Danda, a 31-year-old government official. "It will be good for us. He builds roads across the country. Roads, schools, that's what will save Haiti."

Despite having the considerable benefits of the ruling party machinery at his disposal, Celestin, who is engaged to Preval's daughter, has struggled to shake off the image of being the president's man.

Preval is criticized for his response to the earthquake, and many in Haiti's sprawling slums are disappointed the man who built his career on being a champion of the poor has done little to ease their abject poverty.

The latest opinion poll gave a clear, eight-point lead to Mirlande Manigat, a long-time opposition leader and former first lady who is from Haiti's ruling classes but respected for her academic career.

Manigat, who is assistant dean at quisqueya university, is pushing education and promising a break from the corruption-tainted administrations of the past that have done little to address the plight of ordinary Haitians.

"This election is not important for me. It's important for the country. Haitians do not want continuity. they want change, to see a rupture from the past," she said in an interview wednesday with AFP.

On Friday, Manigat accused Celestin's backers of hoarding 500,000 fake ballots and warned that widespread fraud could derail her candidacy.

"I am sure to make it to the second round. only skulduggery can prevent me from becoming president," she told reporters.

The number three candidate Michel Martelly, a popular singer widely known as "Sweet Micky," also alleged "massive fraud" on Friday, blaming officials close to Manigat and Celestin.

"For sure, this election will not be credible. there will be massive fraud. we expect this," he told reporters in Port-au-Prince.

No candidate is expected to pass the 50 percent threshold needed for an outright victory. The two front-runners are expected to make it through to a January 16 run-off, but nothing is sure in Haiti's political arena.

Campaigning has been marred by deadly clashes between rival political factions and riots in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, targeting UN peacekeepers accused of bringing cholera into the country.

On Friday, the United Nations called on donors to urgently fund its emergency appeal issued earlier this month to help Haiti deal with the epidemic.

"On the appeal for 164 million dollars, we are today still at 19.4 million dollars," said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs. "It's very slow."

The director of Haiti's electoral registry has voiced fears that widespread fraud could "hijack" the poll results.

But UN peacekeeping mission chief Edmond Mulet offered reassurances on Thursday that the situation was "calm, peaceful, serene and without violence" compared to polls in previous years.

The electoral commission said Friday that 4,714,112 people would be eligible to vote in the elections, correcting an earlier UN figure.

Voters will cast ballots at more than 11,000 polling stations for the president, 11 of the country's 30 senators and all 99 parliamentary deputies.

Post new comment

<form action="/comment/reply/44601" accept-charset="UTF-8" method="post" id="comment-form"> <div><div class="form-item" id="edit-name-wrapper"> <label for="edit-name">Your name: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <input type="text" maxlength="60" name="name" id="edit-name" size="30" value="Reader" class="form-text required" /> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-mail-wrapper"> <label for="edit-mail">E-Mail Address: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <input type="text" maxlength="64" name="mail" id="edit-mail" size="30" value="" class="form-text required" /> <div class="description">The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.</div> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-comment-wrapper"> <label for="edit-comment">Comment: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <textarea cols="60" rows="15" name="comment" id="edit-comment" class="form-textarea resizable required"></textarea> </div> <fieldset class=" collapsible collapsed"><legend>Input format</legend><div class="form-item" id="edit-format-1-wrapper"> <label class="option" for="edit-format-1"><input type="radio" id="edit-format-1" name="format" value="1" class="form-radio" /> Filtered HTML</label> <div class="description"><ul class="tips"><li>Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.</li><li>Allowed HTML tags: &lt;a&gt; &lt;em&gt; &lt;strong&gt; &lt;cite&gt; &lt;code&gt; &lt;ul&gt; &lt;ol&gt; &lt;li&gt; &lt;dl&gt; &lt;dt&gt; &lt;dd&gt;</li><li>Lines and paragraphs break automatically.</li></ul></div> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-format-2-wrapper"> <label class="option" for="edit-format-2"><input type="radio" id="edit-format-2" name="format" value="2" checked="checked" class="form-radio" /> Full HTML</label> <div class="description"><ul class="tips"><li>Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.</li><li>Lines and paragraphs break automatically.</li></ul></div> </div> </fieldset> <input type="hidden" name="form_build_id" id="form-239a6c36cbc6f9033bd4ba637ad9fe97" value="form-239a6c36cbc6f9033bd4ba637ad9fe97" /> <input type="hidden" name="form_id" id="edit-comment-form" value="comment_form" /> <fieldset class="captcha"><legend>CAPTCHA</legend><div class="description">This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.</div><input type="hidden" name="captcha_sid" id="edit-captcha-sid" value="82324181" /> <input type="hidden" name="captcha_response" id="edit-captcha-response" value="NLPCaptcha" /> <div class="form-item"> <div id="nlpcaptcha_ajax_api_container"><script type="text/javascript"> var NLPOptions = {key:'c4823cf77a2526b0fba265e2af75c1b5'};</script><script type="text/javascript" src="http://call.nlpcaptcha.in/js/captcha.js" ></script></div> </div> </fieldset> <span class="btn-left"><span class="btn-right"><input type="submit" name="op" id="edit-submit" value="Save" class="form-submit" /></span></span> </div></form>

No Articles Found

No Articles Found

No Articles Found

I want to begin with a little story that was told to me by a leading executive at Aptech. He was exercising in a gym with a lot of younger people.

Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen didn’t make the cut. Neither did Shaji Karun’s Piravi, which bagged 31 international awards.