The Toyota Landcruiser that normally serves MPP's project, The Road to Life Yard, provided tansportation for voters during elections yesterday. Voters were enthusiastic, walking hours to get to polling stations and then waiting hours more, at times, to get the chance to vote.
Elections in the municipality of Hinche went fairly smoothly and without violence. I hung out with Fenese, the MPP driver who used the project truck to help transport voters to and from polling stations, and to help deliver food to MPP election observers who were stationed inside the polling stations to help make sure that the voting was done fairly.
MPP carried out an incredibly intense and well-organized process of motivating rural farmers and their families. MPP also helped train and motivate election observers. The results were very apparent yesterday. The ill and the elderly, women with nursing babies, made their way down the mountains to cast their ballots.
It is possibly the most exciting thing I have had the privilege to be part of in my nearly seven years of serving with MPP.
While many of the political parties literally paid voters to vote for their candidates, MPP leaders and organizers held rallies and talked, sometimes community group by community group, explaining their ideas, as well as listening to the hopes and dreams of the rural participants. It was not democracy as we know it in the States. Exposure to television is mostly limited to the World Cup and newspapers in the rural areas don't exist at all. An illiteracy of 49% is also, of course, a huge factor. How do you get a message across when people don't read and don't have television? Even radios are limited by the batteries that people can afford to buy.
In the end, many people decided that as members of the Farmers Movement of Papay, they are first and foremost members of an orgainzation that is truly working to make a difference in their lives, and they voted in faith that the candidates that MPP endorsed would work with the same vision.
It was an experience. There were many reports of relatively minor fraud in the polling stations in Hinche where Jenny and I had Haitian friends who were working as election observers. In part due to their vigilance, in most of those stations, the voting remained under control. Unfortunately, word is that their was widespread fraud throughout most of the rest of the country.
One report that I just found on Internet (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2010/11/haiti-election.html) suggests that the turmoil was related to the problems of the country, the chaos related to the cholera epidemic and the after-effects of the earthquake. But that is not the analysis of the leaders of MPP. Together with all of the leaders of the main opposition parties, they point the finger at the party of the current government--Inite (Unity). Fanfan (Philefrant St. Nare, MPP's candidate for the Haitian Senate) told me that the government thought they would be the only participants in the elections. When they saw that they could not slide back into power without a struggle, and then found out that they could not buy the people's vote, they decided to win the elections through fraud, or cause enough chaos that they would have to be annuled.
What will happend next? Only God knows.
As you pray for Haiti, please pray for the poor farming families who voted with their feet and with their hearts. Pray that their efforts may not be in vain and they will find new hope, beyond, perhaps, all expectations.
Mark, Jenny and Keila