Haiti’s Election Unaffected by its Past

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Haiti is attempting to put it’s troubled past to rest as the country prepares for a March 28 run-off of the 2010 presidential elections. However spectres of the past have been raised with the return of former president Jean Betrand Aristide.
Despite the resurfacing of allegations of war crimes, the majority of the 4.7 million people registered are expected to vote, witt the focus will be on the two remaining presidential candidates, former first lady Mirlande Manigat, 70, and singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly. However 172 candidates will also contest 76 disputed seats.
All campaigning was stopped on Friday evening and the country was quiet this evening in the wake of Saturday’s bustle. This was in contrast to the scene Friday, March 19 as twice former president returned from exile.
There was a jubilant chaos in the streets as thousands of Haitians welcomed their beloved “Titid” with messages on t-shirts, banners and placards. “B’am papam (give me my father)”, they had asked, and finally he was home.
Waving flags in a carnival atmosphere, people walked and ran alongside cars, motocycles and over-crowded public transports, to Aristide’s home in Tabarr.
“The problem is exclusion. The solution is inclusion,” Aristide had said earlier in an address at Aeroport International Toussaint Louverture, where he was also greeted with adoration. With the nation and the world watching, the former president spoke in English, Zulu, Spanish, French and his native Creole, saying when he is away from Haiti, he cannot breathe.
While many of his comments were drawn from his Lavalas Party’s slogans, Aristide’s speech was far from divisive.
“The humiliation of one Haitian is the humiliation of all Haitians,” he repeated before stating, “our blood is the blood of Toussaint Louverture…we will not betray our blood.” He added the roots of freedom are deeply planted in Haiti.
Flanked by his wife, daughters and supporters, including American actor Danny Glover, Aristide stated his love for his homeland and his people, calling for unity and saying the people are the hope of Haiti.
Aristide’s return two days before presidential elections on caused little of the expected disruption. Although he appeared to hint at exclusion of his Fanmi Lavalas party, Aristide’s tone was one of conciliation. He noted the peaceful atmosphere in contrast to fears that his return could cause unrest.
While a smoke bomb was set off (allegedly by security forces) as supporters scaled the walls of Aristide’s residence on Friday, there was no violence.
Aristide’s gave no indication of his intentions but one highly placed observer feels his presence was precipitated by presidential campaigners. “They put him on the agenda by saying don’t come to Haiti. So he came to Haiti.” Aristide however, has simply stated that the role of a patriot is to love his country, whether in exile or at home.
The regional official noted, “If Aristide wanted to disrupt the election he could have stayed in Africa, made a comment and disrupted the election.”
A member of the Lavalas party concurred, “If Aristide speaks for either of the candidates, they will win. If he says don’t vote; no one will vote.”

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