U.S. official hopeful that cash-strapped Haiti can hold elections

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 15, 2015 7:07 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There is a "fairly good chance" legislative elections in Haiti will happen as scheduled in August, a U.S. State Department official said on Wednesday, adding that the United States will provide more funds to assure polling goes smoothly.

The United States will also ask other countries at the United Nations in New York for pledges of money on Thursday to pay for the elections in the impoverished nation, Tom Adams, State Department Special Coordinator for Haiti told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere Subcommittee.

Haiti needs another $50 million for three upcoming elections this year. The first, scheduled Aug. 9 is for every seat in the Chamber of Deputies and 20 of 30 Senate seats. Parliament dissolved Jan. 12 after President Michel Martelly's government failed to organize elections and the terms ran out for most sitting members.

Senator Marco Rubio, the chairman of the subcommittee, asked Adams if he believes Martelly will cede power after the October presidential election and a possible December runoff.

Adams replied; "He wants to have them, and he wants to leave (office) in February."

Many fear political violence and do not trust elections officials to handle possible disruptions. Some well-known candidates, such as former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and university rector Jacky Lumarque, were deemed ineligible.

The provisional electoral council, which ultimately decides who appears on the ballot, determined neither of the two had passed the required investigations into their use of government finances. Both Lamothe and Lumarque have publicly contested their removals.

Concerns over electoral violence have heightened after the July 1 drawdown of United Nations peacekeepers, with the troop force now cut to 2,370 soldiers and 2,600 police, from a peak of more than 13,300 uniformed officers.

Adams told the subcommittee the Haitian National Police does not have enough officers to control the entire country. He said Haiti needs 30,000 local police but only has 12,000.

Adams said elections were still feasible, and were badly needed to accelerate reforms to open the country up to more foreign investment.

(Reporting by Peter Granitz in Port-au-Prince and Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by David Adams and Andrew Hay)