Election results to be respected as superstitions surround epidemic.
On Monday this week, the presidential front-runners Mirlande Manigat and Michel ‘Sweet Micky’ Martelly took back their initial call for the previous day’s voting to be declared invalid. As the votes began to be counted, it became apparent that the anticipated bias in favour of Jude Celestin of the Inité party currently in power was not as large as had been feared. The Haitian electoral council (CEP) discarded the votes from just 3.5% of the country’s voting centres where there had been what it deemed ‘major incidents’ of fraud including repeat voting, ballot slips scattered in gutters and ransacking of polling stations.
Joseph Lambert, speaking on behalf of the Inité party on Tuesday, condemned Manigat and Martelly as having used “irregularities maliciously invented or blown out of proportion in order to identify our party as the common enemy”. The next day, Manigat, bolstered by early figures in her favour, addressed the public: “I know and you know that I will be the President of Haiti because it is your wish.” Manigat advised her supporters to be ready to protest against further fraudulent activity in the second round of voting, should she reach it, later it the month.
72 hours after the first round of voting, more than 84% of the expected ballot slips had been received by the CTV, the body charged with counting and verifying the votes. Technical consultant Alain Gauthier recognised the impact fraudulent activity had had on the voting and expressed that it was impossible to “be sure of receiving 100% of the ballot slips”. Further verification will be carried out before the results of the first round of voting are announced next week.
Other authorities were more uncompromising in their evaluation of the fairness of the election. Edmond Mulet, the head of the UN mission for stability in Haiti (MINUSTAH) declared that the international community would “withdraw from Haiti and the country would no longer benefit from the support of international resources” if the CEP did not respect the voice of the Haitian voters. Relations are strained at best between the mission sent by the UN and the Haitian people, many of whom believe they are responsible for the cholera epidemic on the island.
The epidemic is shrouded in superstition. Kesna Numa, one of the heads of justice on the island, launched an inquiry into a series of unexplained murders this week. At least 12 people were stoned, attacked with machetes and burnt in the street, accused of having brought the disease into the previously untouched south-western region of Grand’Anse. Numa explained the popular belief that cholera was being spread by witchcraft and those murdered were accused of having sown the seeds of the disease. “They truly believe that evil forces are using the cholera epidemic as a way to murder the people.”