I could have titled this blog post And Now for Something Completely Different. Here in Haiti we are in the thick of elections and they are nothing like Canada just experienced. You do not have to go far to see the evidence of that. These elections seems to be about getting the most signs up. Exposure is everything.
The bus that sits outside our gate has attracted a candidate’s sign.
Every wall is fair game.
This is my neighbour.
My neighbour is running to be a Deputy for the region of Delmas where we live. Deputies are elected to represent their region sitting in the Lower House. There are 99 deputies to be elected during this election cycle.
These are my neighbour’s signs.
They are everywhere.
even on this van
It seems every pole in the city is covered in posters for various political candidates.
Almost every candidate has a spot on this wall.
Walls are not the only target for the posters. This shipping container turned corner store got tagged with a wallpaper of posters after this candidate held a rally in the open area next to the store.
Billboards with candidates smiling faces are everywhere. The blue and red billboard is encouraging citizens to participate in the elections by voting.
If you do not have posters spray paint works.
Posters, billboards and graffiti are ways to get the word out but we have intrigued and annoyed by the campaign sound trucks. My neighbour has one of these. His workers like to bring it back to his house late at night, at full volume.
A truck loaded down with speakers, a generator and a good sound system brings the message right into your home whether you want it or not. These trucks are loud. If you don’t believe me have a listen to this catchy song.
The message is a long commercial about the candidate and to vote for him for Deputy for Delmas.
In Haiti where most people do not have a television and illiteracy is rampant, election campaigns take a different approach. Posters and billboards give candidates public recognition while these campaign sound trucks bring the message to those who might not normally hear about a certain candidate.
Each party is assigned a number and each party has a symbol they use. The assigned number, the symbol and the candidates picture all appear on the ballot to allow those who cannot read to vote for the party they wish. You can see why the posters are important to get a candidates face recognized.
This Sunday October 25th will be the second round of elections this year. These are the first elections to take place since Michel Martelly took the office of president in early 2011.
As per Wikipedia a total of 2,037 candidates registered to contest the elections this year representing 98 different political parties. However, 522 candidates were disqualified in a first instance, leaving 186 candidates for the Senate and 1,329 for the Chamber of Deputies. The Provisional Electoral Council updated the list of candidates on 26 June, with the inscription of 47 candidates for the Senate and 294 for the Chamber of Deputies that had been previously rejected, making a grand total of 233 candidates for 60 senator positions and 1,624 candidates for 99 for deputy positions. There are over 50 persons in the running to be president.
On August 9 the first round of elections took place for deputies and senators. Because of the sheer volume of candidates there is a need for run-off elections where the top 3 or 4 from the first round go up against each other in the 2nd round.
The elections this Sunday will be the first round of presidential elections, the second round for deputies and senators along with municipal elections. The last election day for the presidential run-off is scheduled for December 27.
Due to general voter disenchantment with Haitian politics and politicians and the possibility of violence at the polls the first round elections saw a 18% voter turnout. There were many polls that either closed early or were totally destroyed due to violence by various political actors.
We do not know what will happen this Sunday but taking the advise from the Canadian embassy into consideration I think we will spend our day at home.
You can get a quick tutorial about Haitian politics reading this article
Here is another good resource if you want to read more about what has happened in the first elections and what we might expect on October 25th.