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UN: Outlook Good for Haiti Elections

  • Larry Freund

Man carries woman with cholera symptoms past campaign posters in Port-au-Prince (file photo)

A senior United Nations official in Haiti on Tuesday said he is confident that there will be good elections in Haiti on Sunday, when the country votes for a new president and legislature.

Edmond Mulet, the United Nations special envoy for Haiti, told reporters that despite what he called the "volatile political climate" in Haiti, the electoral process continues unabated, with preparations moving ahead for Sunday's voting. Voters will choose a new president as well as the 99 members of the Chamber of Deputies and 11 members of the 30-seat Senate.

Mulet told reporters in a videoconference from Haiti that more than 4.7 million Haitians are registered to vote. But he said about 200,000 of those names will be removed from the roster because the voters have died.

He said there has always been some violence during Haitian elections, but that security measures are in place to deal with it. "Overall, if you compare the situation in Haiti - security, the capacity to organize elections, the levels of violence, etc. - it is still a matter of concern, but if you compare that with previous parliamentary elections or municipal elections and certainly presidential elections from the past, we are in a much, much better position than on previous occasions," he said.

Mulet added that he is confident that in these circumstances and within the Haitian context, there will be "good elections." He said preliminary results of the vote will be available on December 7 and that final official results would be announced on December 20. Any runoff elections would be held on January 16.

On the issue of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Nigel Fisher, said that according to official figures, there have been 50,000 cases of the disease and 1,200 deaths. But he said it is likely that the actual figure is higher, with up to 70,000 cases and 2,000 deaths.

"The medical specialists all say that this cholera epidemic will continue for months and maybe a year, at least - that we will see literally hundreds of thousands of cases, that it is almost impossible to stop the spread of these cases because it is so contagious and those who carry the cholera bacterium often take days to show it and in that way, they may move anywhere," he said.

Fisher said there is a need to significantly increase the number of cholera treatment centers in Haiti and to deal with a shortage of medical personnel, particularly nurses.