Haitians vote today in presidential and legislative elections that are hoped to be a first step out of rule by decree and a UN-aided interim administration. Rene Preval will get the biggest vote say opinion polls; the former president and close ally of exiled former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide gets support from the latter’s electorate.
UN observers say this has been a noticeably peaceful election compared to past polls, but the second-placed challenger Charles Henry Baker welcomes EU monitors; one of no less than three groups overseeing the elections. There are now over nine thousand Brazilian-led UN soldiers and police trying to keep a lid on the simmering Caribbean island. Although politics have calmed, on the street criminals are running riot, with up to 10 kidnappings a day since a sharp upswing in crime in the capital Port au Prince in the autumn. Political and gang violence has contributed to Haiti remaining one of the poorest countries in the world despite 200 years of independence. The UN is currently committing long-term to help solve the country’s problems, but at least in the countryside the dangers of the capital seem far away. However the country’s grinding poverty is not. At this clinic the effects of a poor medical system, poor diet, unemployment and disease are stark. Even if Haiti is often equated with chaos, less than 10 percent of around a billion euros in aid promised 18 months ago has been delivered. It is much needed, as is a straightforward election today.