Cities and towns across Haiti are plastered with colorful campaign ads, leaving voters struggling to differentiate a swarm of candidates who grin from posters, banners and billboards slapped on nearly everything that doesn’t move and a few that do. Practically every public office is up for grabs in this year’s unprecedented three-round balloting that is picking the next president, two-thirds of the Senate, the entire 119-member Chamber of Deputies and all local offices. Even by Haiti’s rough-and-tumble standards, the parade of office-seekers and unpredictability of the elections is dizzying for many.
“There are so many candidates it’s impossible to focus on it all and see if a few might actually have good ideas. Right now, this whole thing really gives me a headache,” secretary Germithe Merzilus said with an exasperated sigh as a group of partisans walked by in matching T-shirts touting a campaign.
This troubled, poor Caribbean nation has at times been described as nearly ungovernable, yet a lot of people are lining up to try. The first round of Haiti’s presidential vote on Oct. 25 features no less than 54 candidates — a fractured field that makes the 19 contenders in the election five years ago look almost reasonable. They are seeking to succeed President Michel Martelly, who is barred by the constitution from serving a consecutive term.