PORT-AU-PRINCE – Haiti is preparing for long-delayed general elections as the poorest country in the Americas struggles to recover from last month’s disastrous encounter with Hurricane Matthew.
Conditions are such that turnout on Sunday may be even worse than in October 2015, when fewer than 30 percent of the 6 million voters went to the polls for an election whose results were ultimately thrown out due to serious irregularities.
A week after President Michel Martelly’s term officially ended in early February, Jocelerme Privert was named interim head of state pending a fresh vote.
That vote had been scheduled for Oct. 9, but was postponed because of the impact of Matthew, which left 573 people dead, forced 175,000 from their homes and led to food shortages that have affected around 800,000 residents.
While Privert has appealed to Haitians to make their voices heard, apathy appears to be widespread.
“People are bored” with the politicians and the contest itself, a woman identifying herself only as Melissa told EFE.
As was the case 13 months ago, the main presidential contenders are Jovenel Moise, representing Martelly’s ruling party, and opposition stalwart Jude Celestin.
If none of the 27 candidates obtains a majority on Sunday, the top two finishers will face each other in a runoff set for Jan. 29.
Christopher, who lives in Port-au-Prince’s Petion Ville neighborhood, told EFE he plans to cast a ballot for Moise, though he expects many of his friends and neighbors to skip the election.
Many of the people displaced by the hurricane are staying with family and friends, but tens of thousands remain in shelters, while the UN humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, Mourad Wahba, said he has noted a major shift of population from rural areas to the cities.