February 9, 2006


Candidate of Haiti's Poor Leads in Early Tally With 61% of Vote (GINGER THOMPSON, 2/09/06, NY Times)

Ending the political fighting between the rich and the poor must be the first of a long list of priorities for its next president. And the question looming over Mr. Préval is whether a man whose previous term as president was overshadowed by Mr. Aristide, a polarizing political leader, is up to the task.

"Préval has to turn history upside down in Haiti," said Mark Schneider, of the International Crisis Group, a nonpartisan organization focusing on conflict resolution. "For decades, if not centuries, Haitian politics have been ruled by a take-no-prisoners mentality. The determination of the Haitian people to use the ballot to change their history became evident after the record turnout Tuesday. And if the early reports of a first round win turn out to be accurate, I would hope that René Préval knows that he cannot govern alone."

In an interview last month at his sister's house in Port-au-Prince, and then another this week in Marmelade, his father's hometown, Mr. Préval, a former bakery owner, said his priority would be to provide relief to the two-thirds of the population living in extreme poverty. His plans include what he described as a "universal public school program," and at least one free meal a day for poor children. [...]

Mr. Préval said he that would recruit Haitian professionals overseas to help rebuild the government, and hinted that he had offered a job in his administration to a former presidential candidate, Dumarsais Siméus, a Haitian-born business magnate who was forced out of the race because he is an American citizen.

A chief objective of Mr. Préval's government, one of his advisers said, would be to attract more investment from the United States. In the last decade, the adviser said, United States investment in Haiti was less than $10 million, the amount invested in a single year in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

But Mr. Préval also suggested that he would reach out to his opponents among the middle and upper classes. He said that much of his campaign had been financed by the elite, and that he would appoint a prime minister from the political party that wins control of the parliament, which is highly unlikely to be his own.

Haiti has blown it too often to justify optimism, but there's always a remote chance he truly gets it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 9, 2006 11:27 PM

Now, when I said that about the Palestinians, you accused me of racism. What's the difference here?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at February 10, 2006 5:59 PM

Palestine is on its first chance and doing rather well, having already dumped Fatah and elected an anti-corruption government. If in two hundred years it looks like Haiti then we can declare it a failure to that point. Having been an English colony rather than a French that outcome seems im probable.

Posted by: oj at February 10, 2006 6:13 PM