The Economist, Dec 9th 2010 PORT-AU-PRINCE from PRINT EDITION
MIGHT the surprising calm that pervaded Haiti for months following its devastating earthquake finally be over? On December 7th the electoral council announced preliminary results that would send the protégé of René Préval, the unpopular president, through to a run-off presidential ballot in January at the expense of a popular musician. Convinced that the government is trying to steal the election, demonstrators threw rubble, burned barricades and set fire to the ruling party’s headquarters. Airlines cancelled flights to Haiti.
The count gave 31% of the vote to Mirlande Manigat, an academic. A trembling council spokesman announced that Mr Préval’s man, Jude Célestin, a little-known but conspicuously well-financed engineer, won 22.5%, just ahead of Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly (21.8%), a musician known for bawdy stage antics who has become a favourite among the urban dispossessed.
The United States embassy stated bluntly that the result was “inconsistent” with reports by numerous election observers. An exit poll by the National Council for Election Observation, a local watchdog which deployed 5,500 monitors, found that Mrs Manigat and Mr Martelly were easily the two top vote-getters. The United States urged the government and the council to respect the “will of the people”. So earlier did Edmond Mulet, the head of the United Nations mission in Haiti, who threatened a pull-out by foreign donors if the “people’s decision is not respected.”
But what is the popular will? Only 1.1m of a potential electorate of 4.7m managed to cast votes. “The will of those who voted? Of those who contested the vote? Or those who couldn’t vote?” pondered an editorial in Le Nouvelliste, a newspaper. Ten of the 19 presidential candidates are calling for the election’s annulment. So are many Haitians. To their welter of reasons—the exclusion of some political parties, a raging cholera epidemic and the disenfranchisement of many on voting day—they can now add an electoral council that doesn’t seem to know how to count.