Weary, And Wary, Haitians Prepare For Elections In Haiti, 19 candidates are vying in the upcoming election to lead the earthquake-ravaged nation. And with Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean out of the race there's no clear front-runner. It's expected to be a contentious battle for one of the toughest political jobs in the world. But beleaguered Haitians are skeptical about the end result.
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Weary, And Wary, Haitians Prepare For Elections

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Weary, And Wary, Haitians Prepare For Elections

Weary, And Wary, Haitians Prepare For Elections

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.


I'm Robert Siegel.

And we begin this hour with two reports on Haiti. In a moment, the desperate plight of the homeless after January's earthquake. First, though, it is presidential campaign season in Haiti. Among 19 candidates, there is no clear frontrunner now that Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean is out of the race.

NPR's Jason Beaubien brings us the story on the election from Haiti.

(Soundbite of crowd)

JASON BEAUBIEN: In an open-collar white shirt, pressed gray slacks and shaved bald head, Michel Martely is instantly recognized as he steps out of his SUV at the Port-au-Prince airport. The baggage porters yell presidente, and a crowd quickly forms around the musician-turned-candidate. Martely, who's known as Sweet Micky, has been a leading pop star in Haiti since the late 1980s. Now, in his first run for public office, he wants to lead the country.

Mr. MICHEL MARTELY (Presidential Candidate, Haiti): We are living in a country of survival. You know, we have no love for each other anymore.

BEAUBIEN: Martely also says there's no leadership in Haiti anymore. The country has huge numbers of people without work and in the wake of the earthquake, huge amounts of work to do, yet, he says, no one is putting the two together.

Mr. MARTELY: We have the human resource to go ahead and start cleaning. And yet nobody is caring about that. It's because people are too busy caring about making money. The state doesn't serve anymore. It's not about providing service to the population. It's about getting rich when people get into power right now. So it's time that we changed that.

BEAUBIEN: Despite no political experience, Martely says he can unify the country as it moves forward from the devastating January quake.

Martely has a long list of pop hits to his credit, most of them sung in Creole. One liability for him may be that his reputation as an entertainer is that of a good-time, party boy.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MARTELY: (Singing) We can make it. (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Often on stage, he would don a dress and a wig at a moment's notice.

The January 12th earthquake killed more than 200,000 people, left one and a half million homeless and much of Port-au-Prince in ruins. The next president will have to oversee the reconstruction and try to redirect what was already one of the most dysfunctional nations on Earth. Before the quake, roughly 80 percent of the population lived in poverty. Roads, electrical lines, sewers and other infrastructure were in desperate need of repair. Now, they need to be completely rebuilt along with most of the capital.

Mr. RAYMOND JOSEPH (Former Haitian Ambassador to the U.S.): I think this is one the most important presidential elections.

BEAUBIEN: Raymond Joseph recently stepped down as the Haitian ambassador to Washington to run for president. But the Provisional Electoral Council rejected his candidacy.

Mr. JOSEPH: They said that I didn't have what they call the (foreign language spoken). (Foreign language spoken) means discharging yourself of your duties as ambassador. Well, I do have the (Foreign language spoken).

BEAUBIEN: Joseph calls the Electoral Council's actions arbitrary and shenanigans. He says it's a sign that the ruling political elite don't intend to let Haiti hold clean, democratic elections on November 28th.

In another controversial move, the Electoral Council blocked Fanmi Lavalas, the popular party of exiled President Jean Bertrand Aristide, from putting forward a candidate.

Allegations of fraud in Haitian elections are practically inevitable, but this year's balloting faces additional challenges. Forty percent of the polling stations in the country were destroyed in the quake. Tens of thousands of voters were killed. Hundreds of thousands of others were displaced. And numerous people lost all their documents, and no longer have voting cards.

(Soundbite of crowd)

BEAUBIEN: The Organization of American States has launched mobile clinics in Port-au-Prince to help people get new IDs. But on this day, the lines at this mobile clinic have disintegrated into chaos.

Maslin Jaunit says she's been here all day and hasn't been able to get a new ID card.

Ms. MASLIN JAUNIT: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Jaunit says she lost her house and all her documents in the quake. She says she can't wait all day for a new ID, and at this point, she's giving up.

The recovery from the January quake is moving slowly, and many Haitians say they're skeptical about how much a new president can improve things.

Sixty-four-year-old Desoire Alexander is sitting in the second story of what used to be a pink, single-family house in Carrefour. The first floor collapsed completely during the quake. The cement under Alexander slopes sharply towards the missing back of the building. He laughs when asked about the presidential candidates.

Mr. DESOIRE ALEXANDER: (Through Translator) I have no opinion when it comes to candidates because when they talk you see their mouths, you see their face, but you don't see their hearts.

BEAUBIEN: Officials in Haiti insist that logistically everything will be ready for the November 28th presidential polls. Alexander, leaning against a shattered block of concrete, says this election and the fate of Haiti as a whole are in the hands of God.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News.

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