Just three days after former president Aristide returned to the country after 7 years in exile in South Africa, the people of Haiti are being called once again to vote. One candidate is a musician with a bad-boy past. The other is a former first lady with a long political resume. The election, already delayed by a political crisis, is also clouded with uncertainty over the return of ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a popular but divisive figure whose mere presence was considered by the U.S. government and others as a possible threat to the vote.
Reports out of Port-au-Prince confirm that long lines could be seen forming outside polling stations before dawn Sunday as many people sought to cast ballots before going to church. Some polling stations opened several hours late — including the station where Martelly is registered to vote — and workers could be seen setting up after the scheduled 6 a.m. (7 a.m. EDT; 1100 GMT) start time. A spokesman for the electoral council told The Associated Press that poll supplies such as ballots and ink were delayed in reaching voting centers in the southern, southwestern, and western regions of Haiti.
The choice feels like a bitter pill to swallow by many Haitians.
Whoever wins will face major challenges, including a Senate and Chamber of Deputies controlled by the party of outgoing President Rene Preval, who was barred by the constitution from running for re-election. They may also face a surge in cholera once the rainy season starts and anger over the fact that 800,000 people are still in what were once optimistically labeled “temporary settlement camps” after the January 2010 earthquake.
“Everybody is waiting for these elections to be done and nobody wants to make a move until they are,” said Yves Colon, a Haitian-born journalism professor at the University of Miami. “Haitians are looking for someone who can take them out of this hole they’re in.”