The cholera outbreak and Hurricane Tomas in Haiti have been widely publicized, but questions remain as to how these impediments will affect the upcoming November 28 Presidential election. To provide a comprehensive picture of the societal impacts of the rebuilding efforts in Haiti after the earthquake, the Pulitzer Center is engaged in a year-long series of multifaceted, multimedia reporting projects.
"The elections are extremely important because they will lead to the election of those who will guide the state during the rebuilding effort of the next five years," said Edmond Mulet, the UN envoy to Haiti, according to the UN Radio.
"We've never been in this situation where the next President will have the opportunity to build back the whole capitol…it's probably the most exciting election of my generation," said Wesley Laine, Program Manager at International Action and a Haitian national.
Responding to concerns that the cholera epidemic and damage from Hurricane Tomas may affect the election, Mulet told Reuters, "There are no objective reasons not to have elections on Nov. 28. Technically, logistically, security, budget, all is in place."
However, many do not share in Mulet's optimism. According to Laine, the cholera epidemic has had a "tremendous impact" on the elections as it has shifted the Haitian public's attention away from the elections: "It's one thing to have polling stations; it's another to get people to them."
Flooding from Hurricane Tomas aggravated the cholera outbreak, increasing the already-present risk factors such as overcrowding, a scarcity of safe drinking water, and contamination of water supplies. As of November 11, the epidemic's death toll had reached 800. The disease spread to Port-au-Prince where 1.5 million people are still living in tent camps more than 10 months after the earthquake. Accessibility to the polls will be a challenge for the 10-15% of the Haitian population that is still displaced.
Some campaign messages have reached displaced persons in Port-au-Prince's tent camps, Laine said, mostly by way of colorful fliers. "The city looks like Mardi Gras," he said. These posters include a candidate's logo and assigned number; in a country with limited literacy, voters identify candidates by these numerical and visual cues.
The election will determine how future reconstruction efforts proceed, and a major question is how it will affect international aid. The political climate and fairness of the election are likely to factor into countries decisions whether or not to distribute pledged funds. According to the UN, as of mid September, only 18% of pledged funds had been "made effective" in Haiti. In the case of a controversial electoral process or outcome, "it is all too likely that stability will suffer, the investments the economy needs will dry up, and the humanitarian crisis will deepen," warned a recent International Crisis Group report.