As Haiti prepares to vote for a new president, for many, the question is not if the country can overcome its well-documented challenges but whether it should be having an election now at all.
The impact of the devastating cholera outbreak has
grabbed recent headlines, but there was already concern six months ago over Haiti’s ability to ensure a free and fair vote.
It is not only the government’s credibility at stake. With reconstruction barely begun, the UN is also under tremendous pressure. It has been given millions of euros to spend on facilitating the contest, making sure, for example, that people living in makeshift camps know where they can vote.
That logistical problem has further been hampered by the cholera outbreak and anti-UN protests. Many people blame the organisation’s peacekeepers for bringing in the disease. Violence between rival political groups has also proved to be a security nightmare.
Nevertheless, the UN is convinced that putting the election off will do more harm than good.
“If we don’t have an election, we will have a political vacuum of power that would even probably worsen the situation in the country,” said UN spokesman Vincenzo Pugliese.
Even under perfect conditions, staging the elections would have been tough. Thousands of people who lost their identity cards in January’s devastating earthquake have had to re-register to take part. Ballots have been printed and lists of eligible voters compiled at centres across Haiti’s ten provinces.
But there is little or no answer for despair or apathy. It is a crucial factor that might keep people away from the ballot box.