Haiti Elections Seen As A Test Of Stability
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Haitians are set to vote tomorrow, a big step for the troubled country. These are legislative elections, and they're more than three years overdue. And they are seen as a test for Haiti to prove it's capable of holding credible and fair elections. Peter Granitz reports from Port-au-Prince.
PETER GRANITZ, BYLINE: Campaigning in Haiti has less to do with policy and more to do with getting your name out there. Candidates plaster their images and party logos on every of wall, house and billboard. They trash their opponents on the radio. And at any given hour, they send out trucks rigged with speakers blasting their song.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)
UNIDENTIFIED ARTIST: (Singing in Spanish).
GRANITZ: This one for Marie Liliane Vedrigue. She's running for Senate. Rue Jean Jacques Dessalines is the main street in downtown Port-au-Prince. It's one of the few places in the country you still see rubble and teetering buildings, remnants of the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. And it's where Renel Joseph sells knockoff shoes. A pair of green Chuck Taylor's costs about 20 U.S. dollars. That's just the opening price, of course. Joseph smiles a lot. He's optimistic. He loves his country, and he says Haiti needs elections to move forward.
RENEL JOSEPH: (Through interpreter) Parliament has a role. The president has a role. We all need the president to have a parliament. We all have a role.
GRANITZ: Parliament dissolved in January because of missed elections. That left President Michel Martelly ruling without any checks and balances. More than 1,800 candidates are running for some 130 seats. Pierre Esperance, a leading civil rights advocate in Haiti, says that's way too many.
PIERRE ESPERANCE: On Sunday, we will have some problem.
GRANITZ: Problems such as voter intimidation from police, who have their own political leanings, he says, problems such as violence. Esperance's group tracks political violence, and he says there have been five murders since the campaign officially began July 9, including the shooting of a candidate in the southern city of Marigot and problems such as people getting turned away from voting stations. Would-be voters are just now finding out where to vote. They can call or text the two telecom companies with their ID number to find out the location. Many have called in to local radio to complain they're being sent out of the city, places impossible to reach because it's illegal to drive on election day. And many, like Renel Joseph, just assume they should go to the same place as last time.
JOSEPH: (Through interpreter) I haven't verified, but I think I just vote in my neighborhood.
GRANITZ: Haiti is running these elections, from security to counting the ballots. And that's a major shift from last time. The election in 2010, months after the earthquake, was hastily organized by foreign countries and the United Nations. Violence and a contested vote tally forced a months-long delay in the runoff; turnout was abysmally low. Turnout could also be low tomorrow. Cadel Rolande sells bananas and hard-boiled eggs on the side of the street downtown. She's more worried about making money than the election, so she's not going to vote. And besides, her ID card is expired.
CADEL ROLANDE: (Through interpreter) I went to the office to get an electoral card, but they wouldn't see me. I might get one after the election.
GRANITZ: With so many candidates vying for so few seats, there will be run-off elections. Those are set for October 25, the same day as the first round of presidential voting. For NPR News, I'm Peter Granitz in Port-au-Prince. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.