International observers have arrived in Haiti for one of the most dangerous election monitoring missions in the world. The Caribbean nation is finally set to go to the polls next week to choose a new president and parliament. The vote has been put off four times because of rampant gun violence, kidnappings and other crimes.
Unrest has claimed the lives of nine UN peacekeepers, and their presence does not seem to have made people feel particularly safe – many Haitians say they will stay away from polling stations. The UN faces the added problem that many consider it an occupying force and therefore a legitimate target. That predicament is not helped by the estimated 210,000 weapons circulating illegally in Haiti. Lawlessness has prevented a power vacuum being filled since the former leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown two years ago. The presidential favourite is René Préval who held the post from 1995 to 2000. Other candidates have highly questionable pasts, with some accused of involvement in murders. But as the turnout is expected to be low, victory may not taste so sweet, whoever secures it.