Haitian Government Worried About Election as UN Troops Stage Withdrawal.
PORT-AU-PRINCE – Haitian government and local election authorities have expressed concerns for security during general elections later this year, as UN troops withdraw from certain regions of the country.
The Haitian minister responsible for election-related matters, Fritz Jean-Louis, said on Monday that the absence of UN troops from six of the 10 departments in the country could undermine the process of presidential, legislative and municipal elections.
“The withdrawal of UN troops from these regions during the elections is a big concern, not only for the government but also for several countries and other partners helping in the election process,” Jean-Louis told Efe on Monday.
The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti is undertaking a staged withdrawal of soldiers over the next two years, according to the minister.
“It is true that we want to nationalize the election process so that the country and its people can assume responsibility regarding all aspects of organizing elections,” Jean-Louis said.
“However, this should happen in a manner that allows us, first of all, to overcome our shortcomings,” he added.
Local electoral authorities too are concerned by news that troops will be withdrawn from regions including the Northeast, Northwest, Central, Grand’Anse, Nippes and Southeast.
During the elections, troops will only be deployed in the North, Antibonite, South and West departments.
“This is bad news for the electoral process because the UN has been crucial in providing security during elections and logistical support in recent years,” Provisional Electoral Council member Nehemie Joseph told Efe.
“We do not see how we can do it without UN help as we do not have a good alternative,” he said.
Joseph explained that ballot boxes and other sensitive materials need to be secured when transported around the country.
“This is a huge operation and the UN mission uses its personnel with adequate experience to do all of this,” he said.
He suggested that the national police were without adequate people, vehicles and experience to successfully carry out such an operation.
Haitian President Michel Martelly issued a decree Monday calling for a first round of legislative elections on Aug. 9 and presidential elections on Oct. 25.
The second round of legislative elections and local elections would be held on Dec. 27, simultaneous with a second round of presidential elections if required.
Haiti’s radio reported Monday that at least five people were wounded in a knife attack on the weekend, in the southern city of Petit-Goave, during clashes between two local political groups.