By Joe Colas
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) — Haitian government and election authorities on Monday expressed concern about the security of the upcoming elections as UN peacekeepers plan to pull out of six of the Caribbean country’s ten regions as part of a withdrawal plan voted over the past couple of years by the UN Security Council.
The Haitian Minister in charge of the election issue within the government, Fritz Jean-Louis, said the absence of UN troops in most of the regions during the crucial presidential, legislative and local elections will be a security hazard which can reveal to be very challenging.
“The withdrawal of UN troops from these regions during the elections is a big concern for, not only for the government, but also for several countries and other partners supporting the electoral process,” Jean-Louis said in an interview on Monday.
“It is true that we want to nationalize the election process so that the country and its people may fully assume the responsibility of dealing with all the aspects of the organization of elections,” explained Jean-Louis. “But this should be done in a way that allows us first to fill the deficiencies.”
During a visit to Haiti by a delegation of the Security Council earlier this year, the Haitian Minister of Justice and Public safety, Pierre Richard Casimir, had called on the leave intact the numbers of UN blue berets in Haiti and to freeze troops rotation until after the holding of the elections.
Election authorities are also very troubled by the news about the withdrawal of Un troops from the North-East, the North-West, the Central Plateau, the Grand’Anse, the Nippes and the South-East regions. During the elections, UN troops will only be deployed in the North, the Artibonite, the South and the West regions, according to election officials.
“This is very bad news for the election process because the UN has been so instrumental in the election security and logistical device in Haiti over the past years,” Néhémie Joseph, a member of the electoral council, said on Monday.
“At this stage of the process, we don’t see how we are going to do it without the UN if we don’t have a good alternative,” said Joseph.
Joseph explained that all the ballots and other sensitive election material right after the vote were usually secured and transported from all over the country to tabulation centers in different locations.
“This is a big operation, but the UN Mission its own personnel with the necessary experience, it uses its own vehicles and its own budget to do all that,” Joseph indicated. “The Haitian police do not have the adequate personnel, the vehicles and the experience to succeed such an operation,” Joseph indicated.
At least 5 people were wounded by cutting weapon during the weekend in the southern town of Petit-Goave, as a result of pre-election confrontations between supporters of candidate-to-be rival politicians.
Haitian president, Michel Martelly, issued during the past weekend an executive order calling on the population to take part in voting operations Sunday, August 9, 2015 for the first round of parliamentary elections and on Sunday, October 25, 2015 for the first round of the presidential election.
The local elections and the second round of parliamentary elections are scheduled for Sunday, December 27, 2015, while the second round of the presidential election, if any, will be held on the same date.
The timetable is final because it was published in the Official Gazette of the Republic, Le Moniteur, and is a decisive step towards the holding of long-delayed elections.