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A former first lady and a government-backed candidate are heading to a run-off in Haiti’s presidential race, while supporters of a popular musician who came in third are contesting the results. Kojo explores the tense political climate in a country still rebounding from a devastating earthquake.
- Manolia Charlotin Editor & Business Manager, Boston Haitian Reporter; Co-Founder, Haiti 2015
- Joseph Guyler Delva Haiti reporter for Reuters and the BBC
MR. KOJO NNAMDILast month, Haiti staged its first election since a tragic earthquake hit the island. Some of the voting was marred in confusion and accusations of fraud, but yesterday the results of the first round of voting were released. Right now it looks like a former first lady will square off against the government and the incumbent president's favorite candidate in a runoff.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIProtests and gunfire broke out across the capital of Port-au-Prince when the results were announced as supporters of a third candidate accused the government of tampering with the vote. Joining us to discuss this is Manolia Charlotin, editor and business manager of the Boston Haitian Reporter and co-founder of Haiti 2015. She joins us by telephone from Boston. Manolia, thank you for joining us.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd joining us by telephone from Haiti is Joseph Guyler Delva. Guy Delva is Haiti reporter for Reuters and the BBC. Guy Delva, thank you for joining us.
MR. JOSEPH GUYLER DELVAThank you.
NNAMDIGuy Delva, it's my understanding that you are just concluding covering a speech by the President of Haiti, Rene Preval. What did he have to say about the election results?
DELVAYes. He's saying that -- first that he called for calm. He called the population to stay calm and to wait for the results -- not for the results, but to wait for the electoral council to proceed, with possible complaint that there will be (word?) about the results of the election. They think that the only way to solve the problem is not through violence, it is through the electoral law that allows candidates to file a complaint if they are not satisfied with the results.
DELVAAnd the deadline for filing the claims -- the complaints start today. So President Preval is asking -- is calling on the candidates, and their supporters to take advantage of the provisions of the electoral law. If they have complaints, if they don’t agree with the results, they can challenge those results though an entity.
DELVAIn fact, the electoral council called the dispute bureau that deals with contentions between contentious issues relating to the election. So he is not proposing anything else. He's just asking anybody -- everybody -- all the candidates to go through the electoral procedure because if you don't agree with the result, there's one way you can challenge the results is to go to -- through the contentious -- contention office.
NNAMDIOkay. According to the official results released last night, Mirlande Manigat, former first lady, received 31 percent of the vote. She was followed by Jude Celestin, relative newcomer to politics, but he is backed by the ruling party of President Rene Preval. He received 22.48 percent. Michel Martelly, former musician known as Sweet Mickey, finished a close third with 21.84 percent. Roughly 6,000 votes shy of second place.
NNAMDIManolia Charlotin, what does this all say to you?
MS. MANOLIA CHARLOTINWhat this means is that they have a decision to make. If Martelly decides to appeal, what will that mean? Will they go along with the provision in the Constitution that would allow for a third person to run off?
NNAMDIThere is such a provision in the Constitution. I thought that Haitian election laws not only stipulates that candidates need 50 percent of the vote to win an election outright, but I thought that it also stipulated that a runoff has to be between two candidates. I could be wrong.
CHARLOTINYes. There is an exception to that rule, but I don't think the situation falls into that exception. Um, but the (word?) that Martelly and his supporters can do that President Preval said, is to appeal the election. Now, if they do decide to do a three-way runoff, that complete undermines the CEP's electoral process, right?
CHARLOTINThat would be a way for them to appease Martelly's supporters, and that is not the way government, um, should function to appease a group of supporters. Having said that, though, the whole election process itself is completely discredited because you have a discredited electoral council running it. So the fundamental issues are not being addressed in terms of these elections being fair and done properly from the beginning. That they were constitutional and that they were legal from the very beginning.
CHARLOTINSo right now, we're just talking about how do we get through -- how we do we get through the mess, basically.
NNAMDIHow do we get through a flawed political process? Guy Delva, various news outlets are reporting that protestors set fire to the headquarters of Haiti's ruling political party today, and that thousands have been protesting in the streets, forcing the closure of Port-au-Prince airport. Could you verify that or not verify it and tell us what is happening on the ground in Port-au-Prince.
DELVAYeah, Kojo. I could say that this is -- it's total chaos in Port-au-Prince. There's no traffic -- no traffic at all. I mean, no traffic. And that saying that, you know, just, you know, having a few cars going here and there. You don't see cars in the streets in Port-au-Prince today. It's blocked everywhere. They blocked all the roads with flaming tires. They even cut trees that are close to the street.
DELVAThey cut them and put the trees across the street. I mean, there's no way to try to move, and there are so many people in the streets. All of them calling for, you know, saying -- claiming Martelly is the winner, Martelly should win. They voted for Martelly. And they also take down all the posters of the candidates of (word?) or the candidate of the ruling party. So they are -- they are they say very determined.
DELVAAnd they say that they will stay on the streets until their demands are satisfied. So it's a very difficult situation, and the UN troops can't even walk around the streets. There are -- they want to avoid clashes because whenever the demonstrators see UN troops or anybody from the UN, they throw rocks, they throw stones and they want to attack them.
DELVASo it's only the police, the Haitian police, are really visible in the streets. But they -- they don't -- they are not doing anything. Not even to even clear the roads and to facilitate the traffic. They just watch because they are overwhelmed. They -- I have a feeling that they cannot deal with this situation.
DELVAThey cannot fit -- they cannot go and challenge those people because there are so many on the (word?) and they seem so determined, so they would be even more violence, more clashes, more casualties. So they want to avoid that.
NNAMDII want to hear both of you on this issue, but first you, Guy Delva. Everyone seems to agree that Mirlande Manigat was the lead vote getter in the polling, but many supporters of Martelly think the government used a variety of tricks to leapfrog Celestin into the second place slot. Is that in your view the primary reason for the protests that are taking place today? First you, Guy Delva.
DELVAYeah. I mean, the -- because in the city, particularly in the city, you have many friends of Martelly because they know his music and they know him. They like him, he's a popular singer. But it's not necessarily the same situation in the rural areas. In the provincial areas and the rural areas around the country. This is not the same reality. But still, those who are demonstrating, they are mostly in the city.
DELVASo you would see very huge support. Of course, he has a lot of support for sure, and for real. But in the rural areas, that's not necessarily the same situation. That's where comes Jude Celestin claim -- his party supporters, his entourage claimed that he did good in those areas where Mickey did not do good, and where Manigat also did good, but they claim that they -- that's there -- where they're electorate is.
DELVABut at the same time, we can say the Jude Celestin had already been in second in the -- in all the polls second.
NNAMDIBut allow me to interrupt for one second. It is my understanding that either Jude Celestin or some of his supporters claim that he got as much as 52 percent of the vote.
DELVAYeah. No. I mean, that was a joke. I mean, that was a joke. But of course they would say -- claim he won in the first round. All of them are saying that. But what I'm trying to say is that now even today in the street those who are demonstrating were only demonstrating for Sweet Mickey, for Michel Martelly, not for Mirlande Manigat. The even took down some of the posters -- the big posters of Mrs. Manigat.
DELVAThey don't -- Mickey's supporter don't really like Manigat. That's what I saw on the street today. They even had some bad words for Mrs. Manigat. So they just Michel Martelly. So you don't hear anybody when you're talking about either Manigat or anybody else. When they talk about Jude Celestin, it's to curse him. So that's (unintelligible) right now.
NNAMDIManolia Charlotin, you might want to explain for our listeners exactly who these three leading candidates are and what they represent, and what you make of the chaotic situation in Port-au-Prince today. Manolia. Allow Manolia to start.
CHARLOTINWell, Mirlande Manigat is a former first lady, and she's a former senatorial candidate, and is pretty moderate. And some can say a bit conservative in terms of her politics, but she is a 70-year-old professor, who I think embodies a sense of stabilization within the government, and that's probably why she's seen as a good person to lead the country right now.
CHARLOTINThen you have Mr. Celestin, who had a state run private construction business that was once private I should say, and is seen as someone who Preval literally put there, and they're calling this the selection. They're dubbing the election a selection of Jude Celestin. And then you, of course, Michel Martelly, the famed musician, who has campaigned as a man of the people.
CHARLOTINNow, what this means for these three very, very different contenders is something very simple. Do we move forward -- does the country move forward with an election fraught with allegations of fraudulent activity, where the people's voice was not heard, where the 2009 election processes and laws -- everything that we did in 2009 they just redid it again in 2010. Do we move forward with this process and then choose from there, or do we redo everything.
CHARLOTINAnd that's a very important question. I think many of the protestors, they might be screaming, you know, one or the other candidates names, but at the base of this is they don't feel that their voices were heard because the process itself was not legal nor constitutional.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid we are almost all out time. Guy Delva, with the chaotic situation on the streets in Port-au-Prince at this point, I suspect it will be a while before we know how this all shakes out.
DELVAYes. But it seems that the President, after I heard him speak, there is -- they are not considering canceling the re-election at all. I mean, he is saying that the candidates have to follow the electoral law -- the requirements of the electoral law. But at the same time, there is a possibility for Michel Martelly to become -- to go to the runoff.
NNAMDITo go in the run -- and I'm afraid that's all the time we have. We'll have to figure out what happens during the course of the next few days. Joseph Guyler Delva is Haiti reporter for Reuters and the BBC. He joined us by phone from Haiti. Manolia Charlotin is editor and business manager of the Boston Haitian Reporter and co-founder of Haiti 2015. She joined us by telephone from Boston. Thank you both for joining us, and thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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