After rebels helped force him into seven years of exile in South Africa, former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide has finally returned to Haiti, reports Reuters and brought to our attention by commenter ortsed in Open Wire. His return comes on the eve of the country's presidential elections, which have already been subject to fraud and violence last year. As the Financial Times notes, although both presidential contenders have said they would "accept" his return, they each had "called for him to postpone the journey until after the elections."
The public's initial reception, however, appears to be a positive one. The New York Times writes that "cheers" erupted from Haitian supporters and journalists as the first democratically elected leader in the country's history arrived. "Since he left, things are difficult for us; I hope his return can change the poor situation here," one Haitian told the Times."I am not going to vote. I have one leader. It’s Aristide, and he is coming today."
This sentiment is perhaps part of the reason why pundits are skeptical of Aristide's return, fearing it will complicate the election. The Financial Times Benedict Mander writes, "the US government has also openly urged him to delay his return, fearing it would destabilise the elections, with President Barack Obama having personally called President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, where Mr Aristide has lived for the last seven years, twice in the last three days." The Guardian's Alex Dupuy gives an even more skeptical assessment:
Aristide has said he wants to return mainly to resume his work in the field of education – but he is above all a homo politicus, as witnessed by the timing of this return. It would be impossible for him not to want to play a prominent role in politics. But Aristide may, in fact, prove a spent force – for all the the noise and exuberance of his supporters in Haiti, and the consternation of his opponents, including the "troika" of the United States, Canada and France.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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