By Clarens Renois (AFP)
PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haitian President Rene Preval pledged in an interview with AFP to hold elections this year despite the massive difficulties of organizing a successful poll in his quake-devastated country.
Legislative polls, originally set for February and March, were postponed after the January 12 earthquake that demolished the capital Port-au-Prince, killing more than 220,000 people and leaving 1.3 million Haitians homeless.
Preval, who also served as president from 1996 to 2001, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third mandate. His current term expires in February 2011 and presidential elections are expected in December, though no firm date has been announced.
Preval told AFP on Monday that he asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “to send a technical team to evaluate the possibility to have elections with international standards in order for them to be credible.”
Elections were important in order to “not leave a political vacuum” at the end of his mandate, he said.
“It’s a pity there are no elections at the time of my departure,” he said, noting that “the absence of legitimate authorities could pose problems of trust not only for the international community but also for investors.”
Preval however noted that he took office in May 2006, three months after the date set by the constitution.
“On the day that I took the oath of office I announced that I’d serve until February 7, 2011. This is a choice and I will stand by my word,” Preval said.
In the interview Preval urged Haitians to be patient during the reconstruction process. “This is the best way to help us help them,” he said.
“I tell those who are homeless that everyone understands their problem, that nobody would like to be in the street living in truly appalling conditions, but I also ask them to be patient,” Preval said, adding that reconstruction will be a slow and expensive process.
The Caribbean nation — the poorest country in the western hemisphere — has had a long history of dictatorship followed by years of political turmoil and civil unrest.
In 2004, 1,000 US Marines followed by thousands of UN peacekeepers brought order to Haiti after a bloody rebellion against president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s rule. A provisional government was then installed.
MINUSTAH, the United Nations stabilization force which plays a major role in organizing and running elections in Haiti, was particularly badly hit by the quake and well over 100 UN personnel perished in the disaster.
Quake survivors say poor governance, corruption and shoddy construction magnified a disaster that was hundreds of times less powerful than the 8.8-magnitude February 27 quake in Chile, but far more deadly and devastating.
Haiti’s legislature building was severely damaged in the quake, and the body is currently meeting in temporary quarters.
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