Haiti's presidential candidates are spending big where money is scarce

Even before being deemed qualified to run, presidential hopefuls in impoverished Haiti faced a hefty bill: a $12,500 nonrefundable filing fee.

Now they are finding that the amount will only get steeper as campaign season begins to sizzle this month.

With 19 candidates vying for one of the toughest and least compensated top jobs in the hemisphere — it pays just $6,000 per month — the presidential race is likely to be one of the most expensive in Haitian history for candidates.

A serious candidate will need $10 million to $20 million in order to get the message out, said Frantz Charlot, the owner of a visual advertising firm in Petionville, who is designing $300,000 billboard packages for candidates.

"Since the campaign is so tight, and so many of the candidates are fighting for the same voters, the candidates that can hammer their message the most will eventually prevail," Charlot said.

In the 2006 presidential race, which saw Haitian President René Préval beat out 34 other candidates, experts speculated that a candidate needed between $3 million and $6 million to mount a strong challenge.

Political analysts say the $10 million to $20 million that top candidates will spend is still less than what most presidential candidates spend in the hemisphere.

The costs to the Haitian government and donors to hold the Nov. 28 election is estimated at $29 million. The government will fund $7 million with the rest coming from the international community.

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