Measures are being taken at the 1,500 voting centres for Haiti’s presidential run-off election next month to prevent a repetition of fraud that marred the first round last November, a senior United Nations official said today.
The Organization of American States (OAS) will increase its observers to 200 from 120 in the first round, electoral sheets will be colour-coded and call centres beginning today will inform voters about polling locations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Deputy Special Representative Nigel Fisher told the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) via video link from Port-au-Prince, the capital.
A code of conduct is being developed, outlining behaviour for candidate supporters and others at voting centres and he said he expected a $2.5 million funding shortfall to be covered by donor pledges or, in the short-term, by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), should those pledges arrive late.
Earlier this month, the Provisional Electoral Council announced that a former first lady, Mirlande Manigat, and a popular musician, Michel Martelly, would be the two candidates in the run-off, eliminating incumbent President Rene Préval’s party candidate, Jude Celestin.
In December, thousands of protesters rampaged through the streets of Port-au-Prince, accusing the ruling coalition of rigging the polls, after tallies of the 28 November first round put Ms. Manigat and Mr. Celestin in first and second place, with Mr. Martelly third.
In Port-au-Prince, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) said its 8,500 troops and 3,500 police would help the national police maintain security for the run-off, based on a revised strategy that takes into account the lessons learned in the first round.
“The aim of the Blue Helmets and UN Police in supporting the national police is to maintain a secure and stable environment that will allow the proper conduct of the electoral campaign and second round vote in full compliance with law and order,” MINUSTAH spokesperson Sylvie van den Wildenberg told the weekly news briefing on Thursday.
MINUSTAH has been on the ground in Haiti since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest.
Turning to the humanitarian situation 13 months after a devastating earthquake killed 220,000 people and made 1.5 million others homeless, Mr. Fisher said the target for transitional shelters had been exceeded, houses assessed and building codes revised and most children in earthquake zones were back in school.
The main challenges at hand include post-quake recovery and resettlement, the response to the cholera epidemic that erupted in October, and cyclone season preparation, he added, noting that seismologists had found that the massive 2010 quake occurred on a secondary fault, and pressure had not been substantively reduced, meaning that Haiti faced the prospects of a second significant earthquake.
Above all, “the critical issue is jobs,” he stressed, citing the evolving challenges of forced evictions and gender-based violence as other challenges. Further, the cholera epidemic, now in its fourth month, has seen over 230,000 cases and 4,600 dead, with epidemiologists estimating a total 400,000 cases will be seen in the first year of the outbreak, he said.
The Chair of ECOSOC’s Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, Ambassador John McNee of Canada, noted that the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission had recently approved another $430 million in projects in housing, debris removal, education, energy, health and job creation. The Group plans to travel to Haiti for meetings with the Government and various stakeholders and present a report to the Council’s July session.