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Haiti moves towards first post-quake election

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2010 at 3:18 pm

PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 31, 2010 (AFP) – Election candidates in Haiti are jockeying this week ahead of a registration deadline for key November polls, the first since January’s deadly earthquake.

Haitian President Rene Preval (C) and Dominican President Leonel Fernandez (L) place the first stone for the construction of a university campus on July 31, 2010 in Ouanaminthe, 346 km north of Pört-au-Prince. AFP

The vote is seen as a key step towards rebuilding the country and its political institution, and has attracted speculation that hip hop star Wyclef Jean may make a run for president.

The UN meanwhile said it would guaranteeing security for the vote and other international bodies also promised a strong monitoring presence.

“Everything is ready. We are perfectly capable of giving the necessary assistance to Haitian authorities,” Edmond Mulet, the UN secretary general’s representative in Haiti, said ahead of the August 7 registration deadline

Some 70 political parties and coalitions have registered so far for the national elections, originally scheduled for February 28 and March 3, to choose a successor to President Rene Preval, along with all 99 members of the Chamber of Deputies and one third of the members of the Senate.

The vote was postponed after the devastating January 12 earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people and left 1.3 million homeless.

Among potential candidates is Haitian-born musician Wyclef Jean, who has been coy about whether he intends to stand.

A statement released by his family Friday said Jean, who grew up and lives in the United States, would make a public announcement later in the week.

“At this time, (Jean) remains committed to helping people in his homeland of Haiti and has not made a final decision on whether to seek elected office,” the statement said.

A UN Goodwill Ambassador for Haiti, Jean has worked since January to bring much-needed attention to the poverty-stricken nation, holding fundraisers in the United States and escorting Hollywood stars on visits around the ravaged capital Port-au-Prince.

Six months ahead of the end of his term in February 2011, some here are calling for the incumbent Preval to step down early, accusing him of trying to hold onto power or manipulating the electoral council.

Preval, who also served as president from 1996 to 2001, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

On Thursday, the Organization of American States (OAS) and regional umbrella group for Caribbean nations (CARICOM) promised a thorough observer mission to monitor the electoral process, from candidate registration until the proclamation of results.

“This is the largest, longest and most expensive mission ever undertaken by both organizations,” OAS and CARICOM diplomats said.

The elections are being held as Haiti — which has suffered political turmoil for decades — tries to recover from the chaos caused by the January earthquake.

The Caribbean nation — the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere — has had a long history of dictatorship followed by years of political turmoil and civil unrest.

In 2004, some 1,000 US Marines followed by thousands of UN peacekeepers brought order to Haiti after a bloody rebellion against president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s rule. A provisional government was then installed.

Quake survivors say poor governance, corruption and shoddy construction magnified the effects of the 7.0-magnitude January quake, which was much less powerful than an 8.8-magnitude quake in Chile in February, but cause far more damage and loss of life.

Source: SGGP

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