Manigat, Martelly kept to script in rare debate for for Haiti presidency

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8 années ago
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PETIONVILLE, Haiti -- He reinforced his image as a political outsider ready to go to battle with the status-quo. She resisted his repeated attempts to paint her as part of the problem and not the solution.
With just 11 days to go before Haiti’s critical presidential elections, candidates Michel Martelly, a musician known as “Sweet Micky’’ and Mirlande Manigat, a professor and constitutional law expert, went head-to-head in a televised debate Wednesday hoping to distinguish themselves from the each other. Both right-leaning, the two are campaigning on similar platforms: education, national production, reestablishment of a Haitian military.
Supporters in each camp, who claimed victory, are hoping the debate will not just lead to a win March 20 but legitimacy after a first-round plagued by widespread fraud and disorganization.
“I thought it was great,’’ Karl Jean-Jeune, a blogger and Martelly supporter said following the debate, which was taped at the upscale Karibe hotel for TV and radio audiences Wednesday. “I think he was too aggressive, but he got his point of his leadership across. He came to reassure people who are with him, and bring along some people who were not on his side.’’
The debate comes on the heels of a poll by Haiti’s private sector showing that Martelly, 50, has moved ahead of Manigat, 70, as the candidate of choice among Haitian voters in what is being described as a tight race. Martelly, according to the poll by a local firm known by its acronym BRIDES, has 50.8 percent of the votes and Manigat, 46.2 percent. Some 3 percent say they are either undecided or will not vote for either candidate. The poll’s margin of error is 1.27 percent.
Manigat, who led in the first round, said she had not yet seen the poll, but said she was pleased with her performance and the debate despite Martelly’s “little attacks.’’
“I refused to respond,’’ she said.
Martelly dismissed the poll, saying that it was done by “a fervent supporter’’ of Manigat and that the real polling is in the streets. He believes his popularity far exceeds the poll’s results.
“There is a fever out there,’’ he said, referring to his candidacy.
Organizers of the debate say they believe it will have a decision-making impact on Haitian voters.
“The mentality in our culture is the people have to see the candidates, touch them, shake their hands,’’ said Robert Denis, one of the organizers. “The debate makes it possible for the people to see the candidate and see them against the person whom they oppose.’’
But for Haiti’s 4.7 million voters, Wednesday’s debate offered little about how the candidates’ policies will be funded, or their plan for dealing with a looming global fuel crisis once elected.
Instead, Martelly, appealing to his populist base, sought to rib Manigat, and at one point inaccurately depicted her as being a member of the U.S.-backed Gerard Latortue interim government that governed Haiti from 2004-2007. He continuously showed himself as a man who knows the true plight of the people, while repeatedly identifying her as part of the “system.’’
Manigat, a member of the opposition for 30 years, asked for civility. She also decried “the assassination’’ of three young people who mounted posters for her campaign. Their bullet-riddled bodies were found in the morgue, wearing her campaign T-shirt.
By Jacqueline Charles
[email protected]
Source: Miami Herald

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