Haiti: opposition parties call for election boycott

After three days of meetings at the Distinction Night Club in a suburb north of Port-au-Prince, on Sept. 16 four Haitian political coalitions announced their opposition to the general elections scheduled for Nov. 28. The four coalitions–Alternative, Liberation, Rasanble (“Assemble”) and the Union of Democratic Haitian Citizens for Development and Education (UCCADE)— said they were forming a “United Political Front” and expressed their lack of confidence in the current Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). Instead of elections, the coalitions called for a “government of public safety” to take power after President René Garcia Préval’s term ends on Feb. 7 and carry out a transition to full democracy.

However, there was dissension within the coalitions themselves. Some have candidates on the ballot for the Nov. 28 elections, which are to select a new president, 11 of the 27 seats in the Senate and all 99 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Former legislative deputy Steven Benoit, for example, said he was continuing to run for Senate on the Alternative line and that he was attending the event to persuade opposition leaders not to boycott the elections. (Radio Métropole, Haiti, Sept. 15; Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, Sept. 16, Sept. 17; Agence Haïtienne de Presse, Haiti, Sept. 16)

Meanwhile, protests continued over the presence of the 9,000 international soldiers and police of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the failures of the government and international agencies to provide adequate relief after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

On Sept. 10 the Movement of Nationalist Youth (MJN) and other organizations marched to the MINUSTAH barracks in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien to protest the death of 16-year-old Gérald Jean Gilles there on Aug. 17; MINUSTAH says his death was a suicide.

Also on Sept. 10, some of the Port-au-Prince residents made homeless by the earthquake and forced to live in improvised camps demonstrated at the prime minister’s office in the downtown area to protest their conditions. Three days later, on Sept. 13, dozens of residents of the Canaan camp and the government-organized camp at Corail-Cesselesse, north of the capital, protested near the ruined National Palace, demanding new homes and asking how they could deal with the beginning of the school year on Oct. 4 [see Update #1046 for other protests by camp residents]. Meanwhile, the Platform of Victim Employees of Public Enterprises (PEVEP) was holding a demonstration at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor to demand “back pay for employees unjustly dismissed.” (AHP, Sept. 13, English translation from the Haiti Support Group, UK)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 19.

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