Things sound eerily quiet here this morning in my little corner of Haiti—especially after all the angry, sometimes violent, protests yesterday against election fraud. I can only image that, like me, folks are reluctant to go out into the streets.
The big picture looks like this, however:
Haiti held nation-wide elections yesterday for president, senators, and other lesser offices—elections that were to have been scheduled for last February but were delayed following the earthquake that leveled most of Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010.
Yesterday ballot boxes were said to have arrived at polling stations already filled with votes for the protégé and future son-in-law of current Haitian President Rene Preval—Jude Celestin. Mid-morning yesterday 12 of the 18 leading opposition candidates alleged “massive fraud” on the part of Preval and Celestin’s Inite (Unity) coalition and called for election results to be cancelled. These candidates included former first lady and front-runner in pre-election polls, Mirlande Manigate, whose husband again ran for president in 2006, coming in second. In that election Manigate was denied the legally required run-off, even though Preval failed to get 50% of the vote.
(And we think politics in the US are bad! This makes the Bush/Gore Florida controversy in 2000 look like child’s play.)
It has seemed for months that things weren’t likely to be fair, not so much because hip-hop star Wycliffe Jean was denied a spot on the ballot, but more importantly because no candidates of the truly grass roots opposition party Lavalas (still figure-headed by former President Aristide), were allowed to run for any office.
It seemed surprising yesterday, at least to me, that thousands of protesters took to the streets even here in the usually quiet suburb of Petion-ville—led by candidate and entertainer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly and joined by Wycliffe Jean himself.
(The noise kept our dogs unsettled and barking into the night. Actually though, we were bothered no more than that. And to be honest, ours are not the quietest of canines to begin with!)
Today there’s a planned march on the presidential palace, during which protesters, we are told, will call for President Preval to resign.
But damage to the palace itself during the earthquake last January, the palace on which protesters will march today, may suggest, at least in metaphoric terms, that something is indeed “rotten in the State of [Haiti].”
The ghost of Hamlet here is haunting?