Or selections, depending on your perspective. Here's a quick recap of the events up until now:
On November 28th, the first round of Presidential elections was held, where very few voters showed up and those that did were faced with widespread fraud. On December 7th, the results of the first round were announced: 1) Mirlande Manigat, 2) Jude Celestin, 3) Michel Martelly. The first two candidates were to go on to a run-off election, scheduled for January 16th. On December 8th through December 10th, nationwide protests forced the organizers of the election to go to a recount. This was due to the fact that Jude Celestin (the incumbent President's party's candidate) came in second, a fraction of a percentage point ahead of Michel Martelly, and most Haitians agreed that this should not have been the case.
On January 26th, the results were re-announced, with a slight change: 1) Mirlande Manigat, 2) Michel Martelly, 3) Jude Celestin. The incumbent's candidate was out, and the run-off election was reschedule for March 20th. There were no protests, which gave the impression that the people got what they want.
Democracy, right? Not exactly. As I've elaborated on before, the elections were fatally flawed from the beginning. With political parties arbitrarily excluded from participating and hundreds of thousands of unregistered voters unable to cast their votes, it was far from a democratic election. It appears now that the run-off election between Manigat and Martelly will still take place on March 20th, but it's a far cry from a democratic result when they received 6.4% and 4.5% of the registered voters' support, respectively, in the original election (see this CEPR press release).
Jean Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc):
Haiti made it back into the headlines with the return of Jean Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier a couple weeks ago. It's widely agreed that Baby Doc and his father were despots and killers, with the blood of thousands of Haitians on their hands. What isn't so clear is why he came back. The hypothesis that seems to have become the top rumor is that he was broke and needed to come back to Haiti in order to clear up some legal problems so that he can access some overseas bank accounts. Seems plausible, I guess. I'm happy enough just to ignore the guy, although if he's brought to justice for the crimes he's committed against his own people I wouldn't object.
Jean Bertrand Aristide:
Duvalier's return has opened up the door to another one of Haiti's Presidents of the past, Jean Bertrand Aristide. As this great post points out, though, it is almost a crime to even speak about the two in the same sentence. While a lot of news sources are wrapping their respective returns into one story, the two men have very different legacies. If you'd like to read more about Aristide and why many (including me) think that his return would be a positive thing for Haiti, read this article. It's got one of my favorite two-faced U.S. diplomacy anecdotes:
In personal news, I just spent a great weekend with my dad, our friend Jeanne, and Stephanie in the D.R. We went to the beach, ate fresh fish, drank a bunch of Presidents, repeated the previous activities a few times, and watched the Super Bowl. It was a great getaway for the weekend (probably more so for the two who came down from Minnesota, but it was still nice for me, too). It's been a few months since I've lived in the D.R. full time, but it still feels like home in a lot of ways.
My trip back to Port-au-Prince was delayed by a day as Haiti's current president, Rene Preval, decided not to step down from power even though February 7th was originally supposed to be the last day of his five-year term. The bus company canceled the Santo Domingo - Port-au-Prince route for the day because there were some half-hearted protests in the Haitian capital and I guess they didn't want any trouble. Anyway, the protests only lasted about a day and things have calmed down.
I moved! I'll post pictures of the new luxury pad soon so you can all bask in its glory, but suffice it to say it's a great place and I'm very happy. It's got two bedrooms (one for me, one for my friend and colleague, Mor). a bathroom, a nice kitchen, living room, and a balcony. We're on the second floor, but the people who live on the first floor are hardly ever there (I think they live in the States). It's in a great location, in a nice neighborhood and, maybe best of all, cuts down my commute to and from work in half. It's a work in progress, and I've spent the better part of the past week and a half trying to finish it up, but it's definitely home, which is a good place to be.