|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE ON HAITI ELECTIONS
On the eve of tomorrow’s elections in Haiti for Parliament and President, Hédi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told correspondents today at Headquarters, that free, fair, credible and transparent elections there were “an essential step away from violence and towards laying the foundations of a stable and democratic future”.
Although Haitian authorities were responsible for the organization of the electoral process, he said, the United Nations provided full support. As a result, technical preparations were now in place, so that elections could take place as scheduled. As full participation of the Haitian people was indispensable for the elections’ success, it was encouraging that, as of today, over 92 per cent of the registration cards had been distributed. That showed the determination of the Haitian people to engage in the process.
He said it would also be essential that the elections take place peacefully. The Secretary-General had called on all political candidates and political leaders to show “forbearance, courtesy and tolerance” towards one another, regardless the outcome of the elections, and to encourage their constituencies to engage in a peaceful and constructive manner. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) would provide full support to ensure a calm environment. Throughout the day, 7,500 troops and nearly 800 police would be patrolling extensively, together with the Haitian national police. He stressed that “any attempt to disrupt the democratic process tomorrow will be met with a swift and strong response”.
It was most important that all Haitians respect the election results, he said. The road to a peaceful, democratic and stable Haiti would undoubtedly bring challenges and difficulties, but those could be overcome with patience, tolerance and commitment. As suggested in the Secretary-General’s report, the international community and the United Nations must work with the Haitian people and their new leadership to undertake the longer-term work required, including building key institutions supporting security, rule of law and human rights. However, that could take a number of years and hard work. Improvement in the daily lives of the people of Haiti shortly after the elections would be essential. That would require efforts and generous support by the donor countries.
Answering correspondents’ questions about United Nations involvement in the elections, Mr. Annabi said that distribution of all non-sensitive material had been done in advance and sensitive materials were being moved during the last two days before the election. MINUSTAH would have a “robust, visible posture” to send a clear message to potential spoilers, that any attempt to disrupt the process would be dealt with. There would be a maximum deployment of troops and police personnel, to ensure a secure environment for the elections.
The biggest challenge for the elections was the perception of insecurity, he answered another question. That perception had led some to position themselves to dispute the results after the elections. He stressed, that, despite the situation in the four-square kilometre area in Cité de Soleil, the situation in the rest of the country was basically calm. Although there were no voting centres within Cité de Soleil, there were voting centres in its immediate vicinity, to allow that area’s 60,000 registered voters to vote. Of that number, 50,000 had already received their registration cards. He added that, throughout Haiti, all voting centres were located within walking distance -- some three to 5 kilometres -- from the voters.
He said the elections would be closely watched by several hundred international monitors, from the European Union and organizations that cooperated under the umbrella of the ad hoc group International Mission for Monitoring the Haitian Elections, as well, among others, as the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie.
Regarding the fact that American Airlines had suspended flights to the country for 6, 7 and 8 February, he assured correspondents that there were no security issues, and there was an environment conducive to the proper operation of the airport. He did not expect that the suspension of flights would affect the elections, as those Haitians living abroad wishing to participate, probably were already in the country.
Asked about the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report, Mr. Annabi answered that the Secretary-General did not call for more peacekeeping forces, but suggested a six-month mandate extension, to allow for completion of the electoral process (to be completed with local elections on 30 April), the installation of a new Government scheduled for 29 March, and an assessment of the new situation after elections. After the assessment’s completion, changes in staff might be recommended.
A correspondent asked whether the assessment could lead to a drawdown of MINUSTAH, or to a “generational commitment”. Mr. Annabi answered that the assessment was routine after elections, and he hoped and expected that, after elections, the security situation would improve. That would require addressing the situation in Cité de Soleil in all its aspects, including in military, social and economic areas. Once there was a better security situation, the emphasis of the United Nations presence should shift from the military aspects to establishment of a professional national police force. That process might take years, and would require assistance from bilateral donors. Experience had taught that, together with the development of such a police force, reforms of the judicial and correctional systems were also necessary. Long-term stability would depend on the provision of sustained economic assistance by the international community.
Asked about rumours that Haiti’s Prime Minister was about to resign tomorrow, Mr. Annabi said that the transitional process was supposed to end on 7 February, but that the elections had been postponed a number of times. After tomorrow, the Transitional Government would continue as a “caretaker” Government, conducting routine Government business until 29 March, when the new Government would be installed.
* *** *For information media • not an official record