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Haiti planned Feb 28 election, but poll now doubtful

February 28, 2010 - HAITI

A 7.0 earthquake on Jan 12 near the capital, Port-au-Prince, puts Haiti's National Assembly election in doubt for Feb 28 and even for 2010. The disaster comes at a particularly unfortunate time, leaving the poorest country in the western hemisphere to cope with devastation just as it was beginning to recognize stirrings of hope: commercial activity was stirring again for the first time in years, a result of a decrease in political upheaval and criminal activity.

A 7.0 earthquake on Jan 12 near the capital, Port-au-Prince, puts Haiti's National Assembly election in doubt for Feb 28 and even for 2010. The disaster comes at a particularly unfortunate time, leaving the poorest country in the western hemisphere to cope with devastation just as it was beginning to recognize hope: commercial activity was stirring again for the first time in years, a result of a decrease in political upheaval and criminal activity. The election, whenever it happens, has the full support of the United Nations, despite a controversial decision by Haiti's electoral council to ban at least 15 of some 25 parties from contesting the election for the bicameral body. They include the influential Lavalas Family party of ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Priot to the disaster, the UN was leading an effort to attract tourism and investment back to the impoverished country. President Rene Preval's ruling coalition, Front for Hope or L'ESPWA, was also working to coax foreign investment back to the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation. Haitian-American investors plan to open a 32-room Comfort Inn motel in the coastal city of Jacmel in May, the first hotel chain in Haiti in almost a decade, a plan that could be put on hold because of the disaster. In a report just days before the disaster, PBS Newshour noted that a UN peacekeeping force already in the country has been effective in largely stopping urban warfare, Once election planning begins again, Preval's ban on the political parties will be a divisive issue. Banned groups are likely to agitate for reinstatement. Opposition groups threaten to disrupt the election if the presidentially appointed electoral council is not replaced. According to a UN statement on 8 Jan which has been overtaken by the disaster, the elections are the major challenge facing Haiti in 2010 and the United Nations will provide the necessary security and logistical support to further their success. The UN will help distribute electoral material to the more than 11,500 polling stations across the nation as well as collect the ballots afterwards and bring them to Port-au-Prince for tabulation. Jan/10

UN pledges full security and logistical support for Haiti&rsquos upcoming elections (UN 8 Jan 2010)

Chain Hotels Coming Back to Haiti (AP/ABC 11 Jan 2010)

Despite Years of Crushing Poverty, Hope Grows in Haiti (PBS 11 Jan 2010)

Date written/update: 2010-02-28