PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Sep 10 — Jude Celestin, who finished second in last year’s annulled presidential elections, believes Haitians have little interest in voting because the country’s politicians have a history of broken promises.
The 54 year-old Celestin is gearing up for another run for the presidency in a vote set for October 9. The field includes 26 other candidates, and a runoff vote is scheduled for January 8.
“We have had politicians who have lied a lot to the people, with exaggerated promises, and the people have realized that it was nothing but talk,” Celestin, who is the leading opposition figure in Haiti, told AFP in an interview Friday.
Haiti has been mired in deep political crisis since violence disrupted parliamentary elections in August 2015, prompting the vote to be canceled in nearly a quarter of constituencies.
The crisis later came to a head following the announcement of results from the first round of the presidential vote in October.
Challenged by the opposition after an independent commission concluded that the vote had been plagued by “massive fraud,” the government annulled the results and called for a fresh presidential election.
Celestin, who was eliminated in the second round of voting in the 2010 presidential election following an Organization of American States recount, said that Haitians are suspicious of interference by foreign countries.
“People say: ‘it doesn’t change anything because even if I vote, if the candidate doesn’t please the international community, he won’t be elected,’” Celestin said.
“We have therefore launched a motivating, mobilizing campaign so people will go out and vote.”
The “international community” — which include major donors like the United States, and groups like the OAS and the United Nations — have an important role in the country’s affairs given impoverished Haiti’s reliance on foreign assistance.
Barely a quarter of Haiti’s 6.2 million eligible voters turned out for the October 2015 vote, and Celestin is hoping to improve turnout.
Celestin’s main rival is entrepreneur Jovenel Moise, former president Michel Martelly’s hand-picked candidate and the top finisher in last year’s vote.
Moise has faced accusations of corruption and money laundering, which he denies.
Celestin is seeking to draw a contrast by assuring voters that he has enjoyed a “clean” reputation during his career of more than 10 years as head of the National Center of Equipment, the government’s construction ministry.
“The institutions in charge of this kind of analysis have already had to do this type of probe and they have said that Celestin’s tenure was positive,” he said, speaking in third person.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is also recovering from massive destruction caused by a powerful January 2010 earthquake, and a cholera epidemic that broke out in October 2010 near a base housing UN peacekeepers. UN officials recently acknowledged its role in spreading the disease.