|By Clarens Renois (AFP) – 10 hours ago
PORT-AU-PRINCE — Campaigning is getting under way in Haiti’s first election since the devastating January earthquake, amid security concerns and with many of the country’s 4.5 million eligible voters living in refugee camps.
Presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for November 28 in a country still recovering from a massive quake that killed at least 350,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless; 50,000 amputees.
“I hope this election doesn’t become a battleground, where aggressive campaigners try to destroy their rivals instead of expounding their ideas,” outgoing President Rene Preval said Sunday.
Preval, who served two consecutive five-year terms in office and cannot run for reelection, fears there could be unrest during the two-month campaign and vote-counting irregularities later.
“We’ve got enough candidates for these elections: 850 for 99 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, 95 for 11 seats in the Senate and 19 for president,” Preval said.
“What I’m afraid of is low voter participation and security problems,” he said.
Visiting Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said there needed to be a high voter turnout in the election so the international community can deal in future with a government that has strong legitimacy.
Preval, however, had misgivings about the upcoming election.
“Voters disappointed with the political system, people displaced by the earthquake and the many who are suffering, perhaps aren’t too concerned about voting,” he said.
While in refugee camps people sometimes crowd around voting registration booths, most still appear undecided about their role in the vote.
“We still don’t have a candidate to support in this election; we don’t see anybody we can vote for,” said Elvire, a refugee camp management committee member.
The provisional electoral council (CEP) has authorized 19 candidates to run in the presidential election. It rejected all Haitians living abroad, including hip hop star Wyclef Jean and his uncle Raymond Joseph, who is Haiti’s honorary ambassador to the United States.
Candidates include Jude Celestin, — endorsed by Preval – and front-runner Jean-Henry Ceant, a well-known and respected notaire who has his family roots in Belaire, a poor district of Port-au-Prince. He recently obtained 50 percent in a poll that saw Celestin with 2 percent. He has initiated many public projects, for the poor, including a hospital that played a key part in the January 12 quake aftermath.
For the international community, the main concerns are boycott by some opposition parties, and the lack of credibility of the provisional electoral council (CEP), whose members are suspected of being to close to the government.
Some social groups recently wrote UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asking that he use his influence to postpone the elections, which they said “could trigger a new political crisis in the country.”
But for international observers Haiti is ready for elections nine months after the January 12 earthquake.
The Organization of American States (OAS) and the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are preparing to deploy bit observer missions during the vote.
Donor countries have financed 90 percent of the 29 million dollar budget for the vote, which they hope will be “democratic and transparent,” Kouchner said.
Preval said he has asked former French prime minister Lionel Jospin to send election experts to train Haitian voting officials, to help minimize security problems on voting day.
“We don’t have enough police, less than 10,000 for a country of eight million people, and the UN forces who can help us don’t speak Creole or French,” he added.
There are 13,000 soldiers and police with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). It is also assisted by 2,000 civilians.
In a September 2 report, MINUSTAH said it had “noted an increasing number of weapons in circulation, especially in traditionally high crime areas” of Port-Au-Prince.
“In addition, there is a risk that campaigning for the forthcoming elections — particularly the legislative — may be tainted by financing from illegal activities, including the drug trade which continues to be a destabilizing factor in Haiti.”
Preval says we don’t have enough police, although we have 10,000. He must remember that we held Aristide’s election with a poorly equipped 7,000 man army and there was absolutely no security problems at all. In fact, the international community congratulated General Cedras and the military election team.
The MINUSTAH September report shows a distribution of weapons in poor areas. This was reported to use, before September 2, as Preval distributed weapons to his gang-leaders in these slum districts. Preval controls the gangs and always has, using these as a private intimidation force to control and frighten the people. These gangs coordinate the kidnaps for Preval.
One of his key gang-leaders was recently extradited to France for the killing of a French Consul in Haiti. Amaral Duclona, the gang-leader, said that President Preval ordered this murder, plus almost 100 others. Jude Celestin obtained a false passport for Duclona and hid him in the Dominican Republic. Prior to his departure, Duclona his at Preval’s sister’s house. He was arrested in the Dominican Republic and is now in France – talking – talking –talking.
Why won’t the French release copies of his testimony??
The instability will be generated by Preval.
All he needs to do is start the rumor that people will be killed at the pollings stations – and the election is finished.
Preval, as an outgoing president – should not be allowed the influence in this election, that he is exerting. We are picking his replacement…not a substitute Preval. The CEP is completely and toally controlled by Preval It even has one of his mistresses on board – Cherubin. At one time a CEOP had Preval’s first cousin as chairman.
Come on guys!
Let’s give Haiti a chance and guarantee an even playing field.