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United Nations calls on Haiti to set long-delayed election

Haiti was forced to cancel a scheduled meeting with donors to revive reconstruction efforts there after several donors warned they would be no-shows until an election calendar was in place.

By Jacqueline CharlesMcClatchy / March 21, 2013

A boy carries his little brother to school, at a camp for people displaced by the 2010 earthquake, at what was once a golf club, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, earlier this month.

Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

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As a Haiti investigative judge demanded that two parliamentarians be held accountable in the recent assassination of a police officer, the UN Security Council on Wednesday called on the country's political leaders to redouble efforts to break a 16-month political impasse preventing the staging of long-overdue elections.

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"If elections are not held in 2013, it will become ever more difficult for the international community to accept excuses and delays," Ambassador Guillermo E. Rishchynski of Canada said. "These overdue elections must be held in 2013 and as soon as possible."

Earlier this week, Haiti's National Palace noted that parliament had finally sent the names of three of its members to sit on a nine-member electoral council that will be tasked with holding elections for mayors and 10 of 30 senate seats. But ongoing political friction, disagreements, and concerns about who will ultimately sit on the powerful council risk delaying the balloting further.

Nigel Fisher, the acting special representative of the secretary-general and head of the UN peacekeeping operation in Haiti, also said that Haitian authorities still must pass an electoral law, and one governing political parties.

"Politics as zero sum gain is not something that moves a country forward. Developing a consensus around core elements of an inclusive, political process and democratic institutions is very important," Fisher said.

Last month, Fisher publicly scolded Haitian officials, saying the country was not "open for business" despite the assertions of its leaders. Rishchynski said while Canada welcomes the spirit of the slogan, President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe "must devote themselves to delivering the reforms that have been promised."

Security members' tone was less optimistic than it was six months ago, as they noted "backsliding" in the rule of law, security, and the humanitarian conditions. Donors have been equally frustrated. Haiti was forced to cancel a scheduled meeting with donors in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday to revive reconstruction efforts after several donors warned they would be no-shows until an election calendar was in place.

In addition to the "shaky" political progress, council members also called for stepped up efforts to professionalize and grow the Haitian National Police. The country was in danger of not meeting its ambitious but necessary goal of 15,000 members by 2016, Argentina noted.

"It is fundamental that the annual process of police training and recruiting be fulfilled," Chilean Ambassador Octavio Errazuriz Guilisasti said, echoing concerns about armed gang conflicts.

Haitian authorities report that insecurity levels are at their lowest. In recent months, the western department of the national police, which is responsible for Port-au-Prince, has stepped up efforts to crack down on armed gangs, and has made a number of arrests.

Meanwhile,1,050 new police recruits are expected to begin training next month.

Fisher said all of the issues raised by the Security Council - security, rule of law, respect for human rights, improved governance of institutions and elections - are all about improving the lives of Haitians, 80 percent of whom live in poverty and continue to face increasing food prices and impact of last year's drought and storms.

"Haitians are in a critical situation," Fisher said. "All of the reforms that were discussed are to serve one goal, to ensure that Haitians have a better life and that they see their security improve on the ground and above all, they see their rights protected and they have a chance to work. It's very important for their future."

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