Saturday, November 27, 2010

Getting Stuck in a Haitian Election Rally

Driving home from church. A commonplace occurrence. What a great time to participate in Haitian democracy!
So here we were, on Delmas, the main thoroughfare through the city of Port-au-Prince, running all the way from the downtown area to the suburb of Petionville at the foot of the mountain. Traffic stops, and we hear cheering. It's about a hundred or so people, piled onto motorcycles and cars, mostly on foot, cheering for Jude Celestin, candidate for "Prezidan". Mr. Celestin's yellow and green signs are pasted on every light pole, security wall, or other flat surface anywhere you look. He has the endorsement of the current president, as they are related by marriage. The Celestin campaign certainly is most visible and has the most resources for marketing.
The supporters marched uphill through the stopped cars, weaving all around our van. It made me nervous when they ran to one car and I saw a bunch of people pushing their hands in the windows, but then it turned out that that car was with the campaign and was giving out free hats and tshirts (the men in the photo above are holding them). I personally would like a campaign shirt as a memento. I'll work on that.
The most popular campaign advertising technique is definitely posters, which literally plaster every inch of space in Port-au-Prince right now. In the photo of the men in yellow shirts holding white tshirts they had just received, you can see a black banner stretched across the street in the top left corner. That's another common advertising technique, especially in our area because we live directly off Delmas, the main drag. That banner is for Mirlande Manigat, the only female top candidate. She and Mr. Celestin are, according to polls (and how, exactly are there accurate polls in Haiti right now?), at the top of the heap, along with this guy:
This is Sweet Micky, the self-declared "President of Kompa" music, a rapper whose music is apparently so profane my closest Haitian friend won't play it. He's among the top candidates, too. His slogan is "bald head", which I thought was just a joke until a student explained that it's also a reference to transparency, an anti-corruption stance. Style points for having a friendly smile, hot pink, and a sweet cow on your posters.
The election is tomorrow. I have no idea what it's going to be like here. How do you do voter registration when nobody had an address, much less an ID card? Polling stations in the tent cities? I think of the purple thumbs from Iraqi elections.

We hear there is a curfew and a no-cars-allowed policy on major roads. We're told the school cars aren't to leave campus. We'll be sticking close to home, writing final exams and semester review sheets.

As always, let's lift Haiti up today.

Katie

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