MONTREAL – Haiti’s hopes for a better future hinge on the country holding general elections within the year, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Friday.
But members of Haiti’s political elite warned that the country’s fractious political scene and bankrupt party coffers could throw a wrench into the plan.
“Our position is that we hope there will be elections held by the end of the year,” Cannon said.
“When we have a political stability it aids reconstruction, aids the economy, it aids development.”
Speaking at the international reconstruction conference le Groupe de reflexion et d’action pour une Haiti nouvelle (GRAHN) held at the Universite de Montreal, Cannon mentioned Nov. 28 as a possible election date, which has been deemed an acceptable timeline under Haiti’s constitution. Canada has made its preference known to the Haitian government and has pledged to assist in the elections, as it has in the past, Cannon said.
The plan is feasible, but holding fair elections in a country marked by political instability, and whose ministries were destroyed by the earthquake of Jan. 12, will be problematic, presidential candidate Charles Henri Baker said.
“We don’t just need elections, we need proper and fair elections,” said Baker, president of the Respect party who is pledging financial support for Haiti’s three million farming families to rebuild the nation’s agricultural base.
“The state as it is now is bankrupt, there is no leadership,” he said. Four-and-a-half months after the quake, there is still no tangible plan for reconstruction, he said.
Haiti’s political parties will have to overcome a lack of financing, Baker said, as well as widespread credibility issues in the eyes of cynical Haitians.
The many problems of the western hemisphere’s poorest nation existed long before the earthquake struck, noted Haitian university vice-rector and RDNP party secretary general Mirlande Manigat, whose husband was once president of Haiti. Repeated efforts to resolve them have failed, doomed in large part by a lack of political continuity. She argued Friday that the country requires a new constitution that reflects its modern issues. She suggested Haiti’s large diaspora of more than a million former inhabitants living abroad be allowed to vote in coming elections.
Among the many themes raised at the two-day conference, Haiti’s lack of trained workers in fields such as farming, construction, education, textiles and food production was oft-cited as one of the country’s main deterrents to development and the root of its massive unemployment, caused by a lack of education.
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