I spent over one hour or two watching this Haitian presidential debate on www.Haitinetradio.com, having put on stage the two candidates -Martelly and Manigat –who will be on the ballot on March 20. I am going to try to give you my impression of it.
I am not sure what the organizers were trying to achieve with the event and whether or not they reached the objective, but to tell you the truth, it was a waste of time. To me, that was not a political debate; it was more of an exhibition of knowledge –I know more than you do in this field and all this nonsense.
I think, for a first debate, Martelly did well. He just needs to work on his posturing a little, which is something that can come with practice. This is our first experience with political debates in our political culture, so this is new to almost all of these politicians.
Martelly did exactly what he came out to do, and that was to keep his votes. He did not win nor lose any as a result of his performance, which I think was a little too abrasive.
We knew from the start that he was not going to be more rhetorical than Manigat, a university professor. That is undisputable. However, one thing he did better than his opponent was that he answered the questions in a way to allow him to have a better connectivity with the people.
Throughout the debate, Martelly inspired confidence in his answers, which I think was his major highlight. I like his toughness; I would feel safer with him driving me than I would with Manigat.
I don’t know what Manigat’s strategy was, but it was not to win votes. She came to show off her intellectual superiority; I don’t think that’s what the people wanted to see from her since they already knew about her intellect.
She failed short to connect with the people. She was boring, and her answers were too rhetorical for the average Haitian Joe in Cite Soleil and across the country to even come close to comprehend. So she missed the goal big time.
At some point in the debate, I had the impression she was talking to her university students, not to the people whose votes she desperately needs. I would hire her over Martelly to be my professor, but not my president.
Where Haiti is right now, we need a tough guy figure or a no-nonsense type of guy to be on the wheel driving the people. We don’t need another weak head like Preval -with no real power to get the country back on track and restore the authority of the state.
We must not make the mistake of seeing these political debates through the perspective of American politics. Staging political debates is a new concept to all of us, including these politicians. So let’s not be too demanding.
Both candidates did fine, but Martelly resonated better with the people. He did what he came out to achieve. Manigat appeared more like a teacher in a lecture hall than a politician trying to win the hearts of the voters, which was Al Gore’s problem in 2000 and Kerry’s in 2004, explaining the reason why Bush won over the two of them.
Overall, the debate was a waste of time. In a sense, it was positive in that it will show the two candidates what they need to work on for next time. Martelly just needs to work on his temper and protocol big time; Manigat needs to work on her ability to communicate in a language the people in the street can relate to. If I were to choose a winner, it would be Martelly for the simple fact that he achieved what he came out to do.