As Haitians await results of election, UN calls for calm and restraint

Billboard with candidates Michel Martelly (left) and Mirlande Manigat urging Haitians to vote in the 20 March 2011 election

21 March 2011 – The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti has called on all candidates in yesterday’s run-off presidential and legislative elections and their followers to show patience and restraint as they wait for the results of the vote, saying the future of the impoverished country is at stake.

“The second round of the presidential and legislative elections has concluded in considerably better conditions than the first round despite some logistical and administrative problems and isolated acts of violence in certain departments,” the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) said in a news release.

“MINUSTAH congratulates the Haitian people for the patriotic spirit, calm and discipline which they have shown,” it added, praising the efforts of the authorities to make the run-off credible and allow the popular will to be expressed. “The evident enthusiasm of the electorate is clear evidence of the importance Haitians attach to democracy.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon added his voice to the congratulations, and reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to continue helping Haiti build a prosperous future.

“The United Nations was honored to support the Haitian people in exercising their right to choose their next Government, whose primary task would be to oversee the reconstruction of the country after the tremendous tragedies that have befallen it in the past year,” he said in a statement issued by his spokesperson, referring to the devastating earthquake, the hurricanes and cholera epidemic that have struck the country since January 2010.

Former first lady Mirlande Manigat and popular musician Michel Martelly faced off in the presidential poll, which was delayed by two months when violence erupted after disputed first round results in December, when thousands of protesters rampaged through the streets of Port-au-Prince, the capital, accusing the ruling coalition of rigging them in its favour.

Those results initially put Ms. Manigat and outgoing President Rene Préval’s party candidate Jude Celestin in first and second place, qualifying for the run-off, with Mr. Martelly less than one percentage point behind in third place, but thus excluded.

His supporters set up burning barricades of timber, boulders and flaming tires. After a re-examination of the ballots, the Provisional Electoral Council last month announced that Mr. Martelly had come in second and would thus face Ms. Manigat.

Results of the second round are not expected for several days. “While awaiting the end of the counting and the tabulation of ballots, MINUSTAH urges all candidates and their followers to show patience and restraint, thus giving an example of democracy, since it is the future of the country that is at stake,” the mission said.

MINUSTAH, with almost 12,250 uniformed personnel currently on the ground, has been in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest.


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