Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Préval promises general elections soon

The Jamaica Observer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – President René Préval says he plans to do everything in his power to ensure that general elections are held in the earthquake-ravaged, French-speaking Caribbean country before he demits office next year.

The constitutional deadline for the elections is February 7, 2011, but the massive earthquake on January 12 destroyed a number of government buildings and killed an estimated 300,000 people including many public servants.

“I will fight for elections to happen when they are supposed to. If the election results are given before February 7, René Préval will leave February 7, 2011, but René Préval will not take responsibility to show he is irresponsible,” he told reporters, warning that failure to hold the polls could trigger a new “political earthquake”.

Préval said while the Haitian constitution states that the president must depart office on February 7, 2011, it also indicates that the president must serve five years.

Because of delays and controversy in the 2006 presidential elections, Préval did not take office until May 14, 2006, but he said he had no plans to stay beyond May 14, 2011, which would be a violation of the constitution.

Opposition politicians have been calling for Préval to step down on February 7, saying that an interim government could organise the elections. They have accused Préval of reneging on a pledge to leave office on that date.

“Préval is showing he has a personal agenda, and it has nothing to do with the interest of the country,” said Evans Paul, an opposition political party leader.

After previously serving as president from 1995 to 2000, Préval was succeeded by former Roman Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was forced out of office in 2004 and now lives in exile in South Africa.

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