Haitians took to the polls—and then to the streets—yesterday on election day for President René Préval’s successor amid political violence and widespread accusations of fraud. Among the 18 candidates, much attention on election day and now afterwards is focusing on the actions of Mirlande Manigat of the Rally of Progressive National Democrats party (RDNP). She is the presidential front runner with the latest opinion polls giving her an 8 percent lead over any other candidate.
Manigat, a 70-year-old former first lady and current assistant dean of Quisqueya University has been a primary voice of opposition against President Préval’s government. On Sunday, she called for the Provisional Electoral Council to annul the election due to widespread irregularities. “This election is not important for me. It’s important for the country. Haitians do not want continuity. They want change, to see a rupture from the past,” according to Manigat.
For the Haitians who turned out to vote, despite danger of protests and the omnipotent threat of Cholera, many were not able to cast their ballot. Names were often missing from the list of registrated voters or polling stations were simply closed. There were even reports of an assassination attempt on presidential candidate Michel Martelly, better known by his stage name, “Sweet Micky.” As of Sunday night, 12 of the 18 candidates had denounced the elections as illegitimate.
Many voters and presidential contenders alike are blaming President Préval’s government for the electoral uncertainties. Presidential candidate Anne Marie Josette Bijou claimed that Préval, in agreement with the electoral council, is tampering with the elections to benefit the government-endorsed candidate, Jude Celestin. On Sunday the electoral council said there were irregularities at 56 of the 1,500 voting centers.