Haitians return to the polls Friday to elect a parliament. The vote is seen as a crucial step in establishing a legitimate democratic government in the politically unstable Caribbean nation.
For the second time this year, Haitians will be turning out to vote for a new government. After electing Rene Preval as president in February, the country will decide the makeup of its parliament in second round runoff elections for regional deputies and senators. Though voter turnout is expected to be much lower than in the presidential race, the poll is seen as an important step in reinstating a democratically elected government.
Since former President Jean Bertrand Aristide was forced into exile in 2004 by a violent uprising, Haiti's interim government, led by Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, has struggled to restore stability and order. More than 8,000 U.N. peacekeepers have been deployed in Haiti since June of 2004.
United Nations spokesman Damien Onses Cardona says that the logistical preparations are in order, and that the U.N. and Haitian police are confident Friday's vote will be peaceful. He says the elections are an important part of Haiti's political transition.
"I mean the transition is starting now - this was a provisional government, to get the country out of chaos or almost civil war, to a certain degree of normality," he said. "Now the work really starts, for this you need a president, you need a good government, you need a good parliament, and this is what will happen if tomorrow's elections are a success."
The elections will decide the outcome for 97 deputies and 30 senators.
Cardona says that parliamentary elections can have a major impact on the country's ability to rebuild its democratic institutions and enact much-needed legal reforms.
"Haiti is a country with a presidential system, which means the president has strong power. But the parliament - there are so many reforms that everybody has been saying the country needs, for months, not just us," said Cardona. "The reform of justice, reform of the penal criminal code. All these are work of the parliament, not of the president."
The prime minister will be chosen by the parliament, and will serve alongside president-elect Rene Preval.