Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Basics for Haiti

New York Times Editorial

The list of what needs to be fixed in Haiti is distressingly long, and progress has been frustratingly slow. But two areas require urgent attention from the Haitian government and its main international backers, the United Nations and the United States:

KEEP WOMEN AND CHILDREN SAFE. More than a million people are still displaced, many living in crowded refugee camps with only rudimentary protection from the summer’s torrential rains. Sexual assaults are widespread, and for girls and women, who are frightened even to use showers or toilets, life is horrible.

The camps need more lights and more security patrols. It was good news that the U.N. decided to send 680 more police officers to Haiti — bringing its police force there to about 4,400 — including an all-female unit of about 100 Bangladeshi officers. More needs to be done.

PLAN FOR ELECTIONS. To move forward with rebuilding plans, Haiti needs a legitimately elected government.

Voters were supposed to choose a new Parliament in February; the January earthquake made that impossible. Parliament has disbanded, and President René Préval, whose term expires next January, is ruling by decree. The country still does not have an official date for the next presidential and parliamentary elections.

Mr. Préval has said informally that he wants elections on Nov. 28, but he has yet to issue the necessary decree. Without a schedule, donors will not commit the $38 million needed to organize elections. Haiti’s electoral council, whose nine members were hand-picked by Mr. Préval, has been roiled with corruption and infighting.

Haiti needs to start working right now to update electoral records, set voting procedures for displaced people, issue identity cards for the many Haitians who have lost all of their documents, and educate voters on where to vote. And it needs an electoral council to run the vote made up of honest, competent public servants, not political hacks.

This month, Senator Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, issued a report in which he urged the State Department to press Mr. Préval to set an election date and to reorganize the electoral council to restore its legitimacy among skeptical Haitians. Mr. Préval has been frustratingly disengaged from so many of his country’s urgent problems. He needs to fulfill his responsibility and set the stage for fair elections. The last thing Haiti needs right now is a prolonged constitutional crisis.

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