Comment on the run-off election on 20 March. HSG from London 22-03-2011
We were interviewed by South African radio today on the “significance” of the run-off elections. There can hardly be a country in the world where the outcome of a Presidential election is likely to make so little difference to 90% plus of the population. Let’s remember that in the first round only 23% of the electorate took part, following a series of dubious decisions to exclude bona fide presidential candidates and political parties, including the probably most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas. From the reports we are receiving the turnout for the second round is unlikely to have been much higher. (A report from our own correspondent on the ground will be published here tomorrow). The electoral roll is a total joke, not having been updated for years and still including the voters among the over 300,000 people who died in the earthquake as well as missing many who should be on it. In the two largest IDP camps of the capital only a handful of people found their names on the electoral register when they tried to cast their vote on Sunday.
Looking at the two candidates we still have heard hardly any concrete policies and from all we know about both Manigat’s and Martelly’s past we have an elite-rightwinger facing up to a populist-rightwinger. Martelly also wants to bring back the army, in a country with no external enemies, reversing one of the few surviving positive policy changes from the otherwise largely unsuccessful presidential terms of JB Aristide.
All that can be said about these run-off elections is that at least they are over now, without major violence. Of course in any “normal” country the whole election would have been re-run from scratch. But let’s hope that since whoever wins will lack legitimacy, the new President will feel the need to listen very carefully to the voices of the disenfranchised and impoverished majority. Let’s hope against the odds that he or she will be the first President in Haitian history to strengthen the institutions that will guarantee not just fairer elections in the future but sustainable development for the poor.