The Presidential elections are scheduled for November but tensions surrounding them have been boiling since last year.
There are those who say that current President Rene Preval will angle to ensure that his successor is hand picked. The issue is so prickly to the president that he made it his central point during his address earlier this week as Haiti marks its 206 years of independence.
“If these elections go well, peacefully, transparent, without fraud and impartial, it would reinforce confidence of Haitians and foreigners in the country’s capacity to consolidate its stability,” Preval said, adding that the country has worked to preserve stability after his mandate on Feb. 7, 2011.
Preval made the pledge last week in the city of Gonaives in a speech marking Haiti’s Independence Day.
The first round of voting is scheduled for February 28.
Haiti’s electoral council has banned the political party, Fanmi Lavalas, of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from taking part in the vote, saying it submitted improper documents. The decision has drawn criticism from the former president, who was overthrown in a 2004 rebellion and is living in exile in South Africa.
The Fanmi Lavalas party – which is widely backed by Haiti’s poor – has been barred from previous elections over other alleged failures to meet legal requirements.
The presidentially appointed electoral council also has disqualified more than a dozen political groups from the process.
That prompted a letter from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters criticizing the decision.
In a letter sent to Preval in December, she urged the president to ensure the provisional electoral council provides a complete, public explanation for the disqualifications and to reinstate unlawfully banned parties before parliamentary elections Feb. 28.
The California representative’s letter, sent via the Haitian Embassy in Washington, lends outside support to political groups frustrated by Haiti’s nine-member, presidentially appointed electoral council.
Opposition groups accuse the council of trying to help Preval’s newly created Unity party win majorities in parliament so he can push through constitutional reforms and expand executive power. Some have threatened to disrupt voting if the council is not replaced.
“I am concerned that these exclusions would violate the right of Haitian citizens to vote in free and fair elections and that it would be a significant setback to Haiti’s democratic development,” Waters wrote.