Haiti elects new president for Herculean task
The Haiti election Sunday was marked by many of the same problems voters experienced in a first round tainted with widespread fraud, although this time violence was avoided.
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Their arrivals only seemed to distract from a tense political situation that drew attention from the Obama administration. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton flew to Port-au-Prince in February to convince President René Préval to adopt an international mission’s recommendation and break the electoral logjam. As a result, Haiti’s electoral council dropped Préval-backed candidate Jude Célestin to third in the final first-round tallies, making him ineligible for the run-off vote. Mr. Martelly replaced him.Skip to next paragraph
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On the streets of Port-au-Prince Sunday, a feeling of calm prevailed, a marked difference from the Nov. 28 vote in which thousands took to the streets amid claims of fraud and ballot stuffing.
Hernes Fresner had no trouble voting in Port-au-Prince and later traveled up the hills outside of the city to the suburb of Petionville to support Martelly at his polling station. “We need change. We need a different type of person leading the country,” he says. Martelly “likes the people and the people like him.”
Supporters of Martelly peppered him with campaign signs thrown like confetti.
Billions in aid hang in balance
Both Martelly and his opponent, Ms. Manigat, are considered politically conservative, but they offered contrasting styles to an electorate preoccupied with the slowness of reconstruction from last year’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake and the cholera epidemic that followed.
Martelly, a middle-aged kompa music star known for his pants-dropping routines on stage, was a street favorite among many young people in a country with a population that is reportedly more than half under age 25.
Manigat, an avuncular figure 20 years the elder of Martelly, was known as an academic and as the wife of a former president.
Regardless of who prevails, Haitians should expect more involvement from foreign governments, particularly in the rebuilding process, says Francois Pierre-Louis, Jr., a professor at Queens College in New York and an adviser to Jacques-Édouard Alexis, a presidential candidate eliminated in the first round.
The run-off election was widely seen as a key step in gaining the confidence of foreign governments that are funding the reconstruction process. Much of the billions in funding pledged to help the country rebuild following last year’s earthquake has been held up because of the electoral crisis. According to the Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti (pdf), governments have yet to disperse 70 percent of $4.53 billion pledged in aid programs for Haiti over 2010 and 2011.
“We will see the international community playing a much more active role in Haiti after the elections,” Professor Pierre-Louis says. “I think the role that the US will play in this term will be significant.”
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