More than 60 political parties have registered for the Haitian elections scheduled to be held later this year and the United Nations mission "will not allow persons still attached to the past to prevent the candidates from campaigning, or depriving the population from learning about the candidates," the mission chief has said.
After an insurgency that forced elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to go into exile in February 2004, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has spent more than a year re-establishing order in the Caribbean country, especially in two shanty towns, Bel Air and Cité Soleil, in the capital Port-au-Prince.
In a wide-ranging news conference earlier this week, Special Representative of the Secretary-General Juan Gabriel Valdés said: "I say clearly that MINUSTAH will continue to use the necessary force that our mandate permits" to remove the capacity to inflict injury from those who do not understand the disarmament appeal or who understand only the language of violence and weapons.
In the difficult year, the mission's drive to respond to the armed gangs seeking to prevent the elections had not weakened, he said. Since the cabinet was re-shuffled at the end of June and recent appointments were made within the Haitian National Police (HNP), tangible progress has been made in the fight to increase security.
For the first time since MINUSTAH's arrival, he said, they could see a significant improvement in security, with abductions and other criminal acts having decreased considerably since mid-July, and these successes had to be followed up.
Party registration was closed on Monday and all parties would have representatives and all the voters would have the opportunity to vote for the candidates of their choice, Mr. Valdés said.
"We believe in an inclusive electoral process because it confers a profound legitimacy," he said, adding that the parties had agreed that 30 per cent of the candidates fielded would be women.
A new government would be installed by 7 February no matter the changes in other deadlines, he said. The Government's electoral commission has extended the voter registration period by six weeks, until 15 September, for the elections scheduled for November and December.
For voter registration, more than 429 centres were operating across the country, he said.
Since last Friday the residents of Bel Air were able to register at the National Fort, where Brazilian UN peacekeepers and the Haitian National Police were providing permanent security. On the first day, more than 400 voters signed up, Mr. Valdés said.
In Cité Soleil, registration was also continuing under strict security surveillance, he said.
He called on the political parties to accept the challenge of working out concrete programmes to solve the big social, economic and security problems facing the country, saying the rights of Haitians included access to objective information on which to base their choices.
On behalf of the mission, Mr. Valdés congratulated Haiti and Canada on the appointment of Haitian-born, award-winning broadcast journalist Michaëlle Jean of Québec as Governor-General of Canada.