2011-02/market-crowd-trying-to-get-a-glimpse-of-mirlande-manigat-at-the-iron-market-port-au-prince-haiti-photo-by-erin-b-taylor.jpg

Mirlande Manigat visits Marche en Fer

Would-be President Mirlande Manigat visited Port-au-Prince's newly renovated iron market this morning at 11.30 EST. Vendors crowded around as Manigat toured up and down the stalls in both the produce and tourists markets, stopping to talk with vendors who hugged her and showered her with policy requests.

Her entire visit was enveloped by the sound of vendors dancing and singing 'Vle pa vle Manigat, vle pa vle ban-m Mirlande Manigat', which translates as 'Want or not want Manigat, want or want not want give us Mirlande Manigat.

Would-be President Mirlande Manigat visited Port-au-Prince's newly renovated iron market this morning at 11.30 EST. Vendors crowded around as Manigat toured up and down the stalls in both the produce and tourists markets, stopping to talk with vendors who hugged her and showered her with policy requests.

Her entire visit was enveloped by the sound of vendors dancing and singing 'Vle pa vle Manigat, vle pa vle ban-m Mirlande Manigat', which translates as 'Want or not want Manigat, want or want not want give us Mirlande Manigat.

The would-be President looked tired but happy as she patiently worked her way through the heat of the people so keen to meet her.

Mirlande's visit came just three days after the last batch of political protests on the streets of Port-au-Prince. Monday 7th February marked the day that Préval was originally due to step down from office, but his term was extended until the 14th May so that he could continue governing until the new President takes office.

Protesters demanded that Préval step down immediately and be replaced with a provisional government. Police fired tear gas on protesters and bystanders while the fire brigate extinguished burning tyres. The protests did not last for long, however; on Wednesday morning civilians again went about their daily business.

What makes the current election extraordinary is the variety and high profile of players. Besides the two Presidential candidates, the ousted Celestín, and the departing Préval, Duvalier and Aristide are waiting in the wings to take a role in Haiti's public life.

Duvalier, already in the country for three weeks, has called for the establishment of a 'council of ex-Presidents' to advise on Haiti's reconstruction and socioeconomic development. Aristide, passport now in hand, has stated that he has no intention of returning to politics, but would like to be involved in the developing the country's education system.

It is difficult to envisage these vastly different—and divisive—players cooperating successfully to advance Haiti. But Haiti just experienced an historical first: an election announcement that passed without protests.

What will happen now is anyone's guess.But Mirlande's presence at the iron market today, and her willingness to be enveloped by a crowd, suggests that she does not believe Haiti is quite so volatile as the media makes  out.