WASHINGTON, USA (AFP) — The Organization of American States (OAS) said on Wednesday it was sending a high-level mission this week to help Haiti work towards new elections after its devastating earthquake.
The six-member OAS delegation, led by Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin, will visit Haiti from Thursday to Saturday at the request of the Haitian government, the 35-member bloc said in a statement.
“The mission will seek to engage the Haitian authorities and other important stakeholders in the country’s electoral agenda,” an OAS statement said.
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.
“At this juncture and in light of the enormous recovery and reconstruction task ahead, it is critical to help Haiti ensure continuity in state affairs and to uphold the legitimacy of authorities emanating from the will of the people,” Ramdin said.
Rene 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.
OAS delegates will hold discussions with Preval, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, government ministers, election officials and representatives from across Haiti’s political spectrum, private sector and civil society.
Ramdin, who attended a recent Haiti donors meeting in New York, said “these consultations will allow the OAS to better assist Haiti in the planning and preparation of elections, in concert with pertinent international partners.”
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.
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.
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