U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stopped briefly in Haiti on Tuesday to discuss preparations for the country's upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.
He met with outgoing President Michel Martelly and other Haitian officials as he encouraged Haitians to go to the polls on Oct. 25 and urged them to refrain from violence or other disruptions.
Kerry stressed that the legitimate transfer of power could only be achieved through free and fair elections. He noted that the U.S. has provided more than $30 million to aid this year's three-round electoral process in Haiti.
"Haiti needs governing institutions that are legitimate and representative, and those cannot come into being without free and fair elections that take part without intimidation, without violence,'' said Kerry at a podium with Martelly by his side.
He said the U.S. and the rest of the international community hope that the Oct. 25 elections will be a "smoother process'' than what took place in August. If that occurs, he said it could help speed economic growth in Haiti.
August 9 elections
First-round parliamentary elections held Aug. 9 were so marred by disorder and voter intimidation that makeup elections will have to be held in more than two dozen constituencies.
Kerry encouraged Haitians to listen to candidates who offer "real plans'' for Haiti, noting there needs to be confidence in the political system to help attract investment and jobs.
Haiti will hold its first round of presidential elections on Oct. 25 at the same time as the vote for legislative seats. With none of the 54 presidential candidates likely to dominate voting, this month's election is expected to force the two highest vote getters into a Dec. 27 runoff to become Haiti's next leader.
Martelly thanked Kerry for Washington's support with helping boost the economy, financing elections and strengthening the roughly 12,000-member national police force.
Martelly said the messy Aug. 9 parliamentary elections were "far from perfect,'' but that the upcoming election on Oct. 25 "should be better.''
" I laud the help the United States gave us for the electoral process, which must end before the end of the year,'' Martelly said.
Kerry stopped in Haiti on his return to Washington from Chile, where he attended the second "Our Ocean'' conference. He said the U.S. was working to finalize an agreement with Cuba on a protected marine area.