Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Ain't no mountain high enough...

Well, I voted and made it back in one piece. And I have the proof right here:

It went surprisingly well. I'm still in shock. I didn't sleep well at all. Even though I put my alarm on for 5h am, I was awake before that.

We all got dressed and ate a quick breakfast. We met our neighbors around 6h am but there were latecomers so I guess we got to the voting center around 6h30. Like I said in my previous post, we were transferred to a school, the Lycee Marie-Jeanne.

When we got there, the line was to the half point of the street. Around 7h, I left the group to see how far it was. It was up to 3 times that many. I'm guessing 100 people, easily.

So we waited, and waited. At around 7h40, the voting started. It was supposed to begin at 6h but they were late. At 8h25, there were 20 between me and the gates of the school.

While all this waiting was happening, the elderly and the pregnant got to cut in front. There were also the observers, the party mandated people, some press and the local police. I only saw 1 Canadian cop, which was a big surprise. My father says the police was in plain clothes.

At 8h40, my mother and the rest of our group got in but my brother and I, we were locked out. We got in 10 minutes later.

You were assigned a classroom by alphabetical letter and there was a bit of confusion. Lots of people lost their temper because they couldn't find their correct line.

I was out of there by 9h45 am. In the end, my mother, brother and I voted in the same room. They had to find our names on a list with the card number and a picture. You get checked, you vote, then you sign to get your card back, they paint your thumbnail and tada.

I have to say the biggest problem for me was that the only thing separating you while voting was this cardboard contraption: two pieces of carton fitted together in the middle. No real privacy.

And it was even worse for the couple of voting posts outside in the yard. Anyone could see what the voter was marking. Plus, school benches are NOT for adults, thank you very much.

We went down the line before we left for home. I estimate 200-250 people were in line. And there was at least as much at the center across the street.

My aunt lived in Petion-Ville, in the mountains actually, and she went at 2h30, got out at 4h30. Heard the same story from someone else, but she was at another center in PV.

All in all, it was a good day. A few casualties but no big drama. I don't get why the journalists at the official press conference where so negative in their assessment.

Ok, so the next step is the results. I'll let you know asap. For now, I'm off to bed, I'm dead on my feet. Who knew doing your civic duty was so tiring?

Monday, February 06, 2006

The View From My Window

I thought you guys would like to see what "reaching your voters" means here :

You can tell right away which candidates have a lot of money and which don't.

Nothing but good times ahead

Tomorrow, I vote. And I'm scared. No big surprise, my fear, if you've been reading this blog regularly. Except this time, past experiences seem to excuse my cowardice, if only a little.

Today, though, I stayed home. The government gave its employees three days off; schools have been closed since Friday. The rest made up its on mind on whether to work or not.

I was glad to stay home, though I couldn't find the energy to do much. I'm anxious. They say that is Mr Rinse Repeat isn't elected, the bad guys have promised to bloody and burn this city. They say that even if he wins, that will happen. That it has always been planned that way.

It's been very quiet lately. At night, I haven't heard anything other than airplanes and helicopters. Even the constant background of generators stopped since we've had electricity every night since the week-end. During the day, no news of kidnappings or crime, but it could be they are happening in secret elsewhere, if you catch my drift...

It wasn't quiet Saturday, though. It was the last day for campaining and you could tell by all the fresh banners, and posters, and balloons, and billboards covering what seems like every available inch of wall or lamppost in town. Saturday, particularly, saw several candidates rousing the troops one last time. Of course, it made for as many traffic jams since the candidates picked strategic points to rally their followers.

And ads urging us to vote where everywhere these last few weeks. On the radio, on TV, in the papers, in the streets, pushing, and pushing, and pushing. I joked with my family that printers and glue manufacturers will come out of this electoral season with beatific smiles. I'm not sure those who will have to scrape and repaint their walls will be as happy.

It's been an interesting campaign. Full of rumors, accusations, puzzling silences and even the death of a candidate. Rumors say that the winner has already been chose, that the irregularities were arranged during the registration process. This seems plausible. Elections, in the last fifty years at least, have not been known for their fairness or transparency, regardless of what anyone might pretend.

The government channels are also showing ads on how and where to vote. They put the reworked list of voting centers in the papers but I checked mine again online, on the website they set up for it. My original center was a block from my house. Then it moved to 2 blocks away, in a neighboring high school. Three days ago, I discovered I would have to walk 8 blocks to vote. So we changed our strategy. Instead of going each one in turn, we've decided to go with a group of neighbors. I've put out my clothes and made breakfast already. We're leaving at daybreak. I want to bring my cell phone but I don't know if I can; I'll have to check.

So tomorrow, I vote. And I'm still scared. I try not to think too much beyond Wednesday. Or maybe I should say Tuesday night, since the UN etc promised partial results for tomorrow night. This is what worries me the most : what's next?

The polls will be opened from 6h am to 6h pm. It promises to be a grand affair. The numbers a impressive. 3 millions voting cards delivered, 9 thousand UN troops, all the police force (well, those not dead, imprisoned or MIA, at least), 12 helicopters and an staggering 36,000 national and international observers plus the newly trained electoral security agents. No motorcycles, strict limitations on speed or vehicle access to centers.

We also made the news. This one is a given. We always get our 15 mn of fame when something big like this happens. It seems like every day, on French, Caribbean or Canadian TV, they have a segment or a documentary on our "situation". I haven't watched US channels but I imagine that even CNN Headline News found something to say about us. I expect to meet a few foreign reporters at the center, although the big agencies will probably crowd the more "interesting" ones like near the slums of Cite Soleil or at the Prime Minister's office in Musseau.

Most people want to vote, if only to deprive one candidate or another from winning. I don't know who exactly I'll end up voting for, I'm more sure of whom I won't vote for. I'm not convinced my ballot will matter one way or the other but I'm not willing to gamble on it. There are also a number of people who will not vote and say so. Either by political belief or lack of interest. The former group say that it isn't our elections, once again, but those of the foreign players. I agree. Those in the latter group just don't think it's important anymore. Most days, I agree with them. Except, I want to do something, not sit and wait as always.

I just hope...

Anyway, stay tuned folks. Surely, I'll have more to tell. Tomorrow.