Haiti’s vote

TOLEDO BLADE March 25, 2011

HAITI’s runoff presidential election this week appears to have gone smoothly, although the results have yet to be announced.

The final two candidates were determined in somewhat sketchy fashion. The top finishers in the general election last November were Mirlande Manigat and President Rene Preval’s chosen successor, Jude Celestin.

The supporters of singer Michel Martelly, who officially finished third, credibly claimed fraud by President Preval’s party. Mr. Celestin was ousted and Mr. Martelly moved up. He may have won this week’s runoff, with American Embassy “quick count” results indicating 80 percent for him, but that is not certain.

This murky picture is further confounded by the return to Haiti of two former presidents. Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the son of longtime President Francois Duvalier, came back in January from exile in France. The younger Duvalier ruled for 15 years.

Former Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was Haiti’s president intermittently from 1990 until he resigned in 2004, returned last week from exile in South Africa. Mr. Aristide left under a cloud of charges of corruption and misgovernment.

It does not appear that the return of either former president played a disruptive role in Sunday’s election. Still, no one knows which voters may have stayed home as a result.

The United States seeks efficient, honest government in Haiti, based on a solid electoral mandate. Whether this election will promote such an outcome is not at all clear.

America should want good government in Haiti to see it rise from being the poorest nation in this hemisphere. Haiti’s 10 million people are 700 miles from our shores. When things get rough, some of them get on boats and try to reach Florida as illegal immigrants.

Haitians and Americans should both hope that this week’s election produced a positive result, whether Ms. Manigat or Mr. Martelly is declared the winner — and that the ex-presidents stay in the shadows where they belong.


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