Right now, everything is getting more coverage in Haiti than the actual elections. My favorite headline: Sean Penn and Wyclef Jean make Peace. As of today, this is one of the more prominent headlines. In other news there’s updates on Duvalier and his ongoing court procedures, an almost hourly update on the whereabouts of Aristide’s diplomatic passport, “Brangelina” possibly adopting a Haitian orphan, and some scattered stories on cholera. Yet, it’s at this time that Haiti is one month away from the second round of its already much-contested presidential elections.
The world has been busy of late keeping Egypt honest, specifically by providing international coverage to the daily protests that eventually led to long-time president Mubarak’s resignation after 30 years. Part of the effectiveness of these protests has been the ability of the international community (media, Egypt watchers, grassroots organizations, politicians, etc) to stay focused on the protestors themselves as well as remain current on the issues surrounding mass civil disobedience (namely, the desire for democracy). This doesn’t exactly ring true in Haiti, given the aforementioned top stories. That’s not to say that the issues between the two candidates, former singer Martelly and former first lady Manigat, are being ignored altogether. You can find the candidats’ stances on varying platforms, such as the rights/roles of the Haitian diaspora, in scattered stories. Nonetheless, the same precise focus on the issues at hand that existed for the Egyptian protests does not exist for the Haitian presidential elections.
For example, a healthy portion of the elections debate has surrounded the return of Duvalier and the possible return of Aristide. The equivalent in Egypt would be if the majority of conversation on Egyptian protests centered on Anwar Sadat and Gamal Nasser. It’s not exactly a fair comparison, I know, since the two are both deceased. Maybe a better example would be if the 2008 U.S. presidential elections instead focused almost entirely on the welfare and whereabouts of George Bush Sr. and Jimmy Carter. On the one hand, it’s an intriguing political discussion, on the other hand it doesn’t do much to advance the current elections agenda.
A more fun comparison would be the focus on Sean Penn and Wyclef rather than the two presidential candidates. Let’s see… we could focus on Taylor Swift and Kanye West (though this is a bit awkward because, well, we did focus on those two instead of politics).
Nonetheless, as the second round of elections come closer, I would love to see more coverage and debate on what the two candidates stand for. This is not so much for the sake of Haitians in Haiti, who are already familiar with both candidates, but instead for the same demographics of people who have a categoric interest in Egypt: the watchers, the grassroots organizers, the diaspora, the politicians, the volunteers, etc. For all the fleeting comparisons that people make between Egypt and Haiti, it’s important to actually give Haiti a chance to be Egypt by treating its presidential election with the same importance as the revolution in Egypt.