One year has passed since Haiti was rocked by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake on January 12, 2010. In just three minutes, a nation already suffering from hunger and neglect was hit with a seemingly decisive blow.
The media’s coverage of Haiti is as insightful today as it was in the weeks immediately following the earthquake. Then, as now, there is a cache of grim photos and figures that find their way into each segment. Running down a list of casualties—supposedly to paint a picture of the situation plaguing Haiti—tends to oversimplify an unnervingly complicated situation. At the same time however, it’s important to take stock of what has been lost in just a year: more than 250,000 killed in the earthquake alone; 1 million displaced persons; 3,500 dead by Cholera with 400,000 more cases estimated to surface in 2012; upwards of $10 billion in damages; and political violence rampant surrounding the political election. As they say, ‘if it bleeds, it leads’.
But amidst the cripplingly slow reconstruction effort, some progress has been made. The most symbolic achievement—and perhaps the most dramatic as well—is the presidential election that took place on November 28, 2010. Why would a fraud-ridden election that played out like a telenovela be so key? Because the single most important entity in post-earthquake Haiti will be an established, well-funded Haitian government. Not only will this government be in charge of delivering social services the government has failed to provide for decades, but the legitimacy of the government (and I use the word legitimacy optimistically) will determine how much of the $10 billion in donations and foreign aid actually makes its way to Haiti, and from that point, how effectively it is invested.
Granted, it will be several months before Haiti’s next president comes into power, let alone establishes him or herself. But the Organization of American States (OAS) took a crucial step on Monday when it published a review of the hotly contested election results. The outcome: disqualification of 17,220 votes for ruling-party candidate Jude Celestin and 7,150 votes for kompa star Michel “Sweet Mickey” Martelly. The OAS put an end to the back and forth about who will participate in the run-off next month (assuming President Préval accepts the report, which he should given that he invited the 10-man OAS team in the first place). With Martelly likely to earn a second-place victory with 22.2 percent of the vote, he would face undisputed first-place finisher Mirlande Manigat for perhaps the most important presidential post in Haiti since the 1960s.
A 10-person team from the Organization of American States (OAS) completed a report on Monday that concluded that Michel Martelly won more votes than previously announced in the Haitian presidential elections on November 28, 2010. The controversial election placed ruling-party candidate Jude Celestin in second place, qualifying him for a second round run-off over the popular kompa star Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly. After reviewing the results, the OAS disqualified 17,220 votes for Celestin and 7,150 votes for Martelly, giving Martelly the second-place victory with 22.2 of the vote.
The Haitian government asked the OAS to review the election after widespread protests and violence broke out following the initial release of results on December 7, 2010. The clashes between protesters—mostly Martelly’s supporters—and UN Peacekeepers left at least five dead.
President René Préval and the Haitian Electoral Committee have denied accusations of fraud and ballot-stuffing. Now that the OAS results clash with the Haitian government’s—and cites the strong possibility of fraud—Préval has not yet accepted the OAS report. Whoever is chosen as the second-place finisher will face first place Mirlande Manigat in a run-off that is postponed until February 2011.