Haiti election campaign enters final days
Preparations for Haiti's upcoming election are proceeding as planned, despite concerns about security and the country's deadly cholera outbreak, Canada's ambassador to Haiti says.
Henri-Paul Normandin told CBC News Friday that "all the key pieces of the puzzle" have been put in place ahead of Sunday's presidential and legislative elections.
"At this point in time, everything is proceeding and we hope that the elections will take place in a calm situation on Sunday," he said from the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince.
He said he believes Haitians are eager to choose a government to help them move forward and rebuild after January's devastating earthquake.
Haiti has also been struggling to slow the spread of a deadly, fast-moving cholera outbreak, but Normandin said most Haitians are still eager to head to the polls.
"Conditions may not be ideal for an election, but it is time for the Haitians to choose who will help them in the challenging times ahead," he said.
Edmond Mulet, head of the United Nations Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) said Thursday that it is better to move forward with the elections than delay them, as some presidential candidates had suggested.
Mulet had previously acknowledged that violence could erupt in the leadup to the election or while people head to the polls, but he said in a statement earlier this week that security forces have been trained to provide safe conditions at polling stations.
CBC reporter David Common said there were rallies being held in Port-au-Prince, but the city was fairly quiet Friday.
"Today we're seeing a gradual locking down of the capital because of those fears of violence," Common said, noting that many schools and businesses were closed.
"At this point it has been relatively calm, but there is a lot of tension over the government's handling of the cholera epidemic and over concerns about possible voter fraud leading into this election," he said.
Eighteen candidates are seeking the presidential post in Sunday's balloting, including Michel Martelly, a popular musician, and Mirlande Manigat, whose husband once served as interim president.
Outgoing President René Préval has expressed support for Jude Celestin, the head of a national construction firm.
The victor will oversee billions of dollars in foreign aid pledged after the Jan. 12 earthquake. He or she will also inherit joblessness, millions of quake-displaced citizens and a cholera epidemic expected to sicken as many as 400,000 people.
The list of more than 4.5 million registered voters includes many who died in the quake, and some observers have expressed concerns about possible election fraud.
Charles-Henri Baker, another presidential candidate, told CBC News that fraud is a major concern.
He said Haitians will be vigilant in monitoring for fraud.
"The Haitian people are looking and the Haitian people are ready to react, to keep them from creating these fraudulent acts."
Normandin said Haitians will run the election, but he noted that international organizations have helped set up monitoring systems to try to ensure elections are free and fair.
There are also questions about how many Haitians will head to the polls, but Normandin said he hopes large numbers of Haitians will get out to vote.
"We will only know on Sunday, but at this point in time I can tell there is quite a bit of interest in the elections."
With files from The Associated Press