The controversial general elections in Haiti appear set to take place on Sunday, despite calls for postponement and a looming wave of violence across the country.
Mere days before the polls open, 1 of 19 candidates for the presidency withdrew his application, while four others—Josette Bijou, Gerard Blot, Garaudy Laguerre, and Wilson Jeudy—appealed for a delay in the elections.
“We urge authorities to postpone the date of the elections and to establish and publish a plan to battle the cholera epidemic that threatens the lives of all Haitians,” the four presidential candidates said in a joint statement.
Their voices, however, remained unheard. According to the Joint Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community in Haiti, the preparations for the elections are on track despite the challenges.
Sunday's election will prove to be a historic one for Haiti. Citizens will be voting for the entire House of Deputies, each of whom is elected for a four-year term, a president for a five-year term, as well as one-third of the Senate, the members of which are elected for a six-year term.
Many fear the polls will be a fraud, however.
According to a Nov. 22 statement from the Institute of Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), the main electoral committee in the country, lacks credibility, because the council was personally approved by current President Rene Préval and later excluded 15 political parties and their leaders from the contest without the authority to do so. It has also been marred by allegations of corruption.
A post on the blog “Haitian Truth” summarized the mood of many citizens toward the elections on Thursday and appealed to postpone the vote until April 2011.
“People are focused upon personal survival and that of their family. Survival is the key word and their vocabulary cannot really encompass democratic elections. To move forward now plays into the hands of the [current president] Préval/United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) conspiracy,” the post states.
Recently, protests have been breaking out across the country against the Haitian government and the United Nations, whose peacekeepers, particularly those from Nepal, are suspected of bringing cholera to Haiti.
The negative mood in the population is also fueled by the CEP’s disqualification of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first democratically chosen president of Haiti, who was toppled in a military coup in 1991. He has been living in exile in Africa since 2004. He intended to run for election but was denied a passport by the Haitian government, and therefore, could not register to vote.
The act has been perceived as a measure by Préval to promote his own protégé Jude Celestine. Préval has served two terms and is ineligible to run for re-election.
The blog post advocates delaying the vote until the cholera epidemic is under control and a proper electoral system is in place. It warns that any press on Nov. 28 will “give birth to a perverted situation that will guarantee anything other that a successful reconstruction of the land.”