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Turnout for Haitian elections is high, UN mission

Turnout for Haitian elections is high, UN mission says

As Haitians turned out in large numbers to vote in national elections in the Caribbean country today, the senior United Nations envoy there visited voting centres in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

UN Special Representative Juan Gabriel Valdés was scheduled to stop at Lycée de Pétion-Ville in Place St. Pierre, Lycée Fort Nationale in Bel Air and at the Hôpital de la Paix, according to the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

A few technical glitches caused some delays, but MINUSTAH worked to correct them and the first nationwide voting since an insurgency forced elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile two years ago was proceeding without serious incident, the mission said.

At UN Headquarters, the Security Council heard a closed-door update from senior UN Secretariat officials. It was the first in what is expected to be a daily briefing on hotspots, instituted by the Council president for February, United States Ambassador John Bolton.

He told journalists afterwards that Assistant Secretary-General Hédi Annabi had briefed the 15 Council members on such matters as Haiti’s polling stations, security, contingency plans and protection of the votes cast. The briefings would not be decision-making meetings, he added.

Meanwhile, in a report to the Council on the mission released today, Secretary-General Kofi Annan underscored the need for the incoming leadership to show strong commitment to reconciliation and inclusion.

He also recommended that MINUSTAH be continued in its present configuration for another six months while a post-electoral mission strategy is worked out.

Newly elected Haitian officials will inherit weak State and local institutions, suffering from both a lack of trained personnel and insufficient administrative infrastructure, the report noted, pointing to the need for ongoing support from MINUSTAH and the international community.

“The installation of an elected Government will usher in a new phase in Haiti’s transition to a stable democracy,” Mr. Annan said, adding: “Haiti’s political and institutional progress will require sustained commitment to promoting key democratic values, including promoting national dialogue; respect for the independence of the judiciary and an impartial, professional civil service and police; and full commitment to human rights.”

Some immediate improvement in social and economic conditions could make a crucial contribution to stability, the Secretary-General stressed, voicing hope that the fruits of multilateral cooperation would become clearly visible in the coming months, and would be supplemented by targeted aid for such basic needs as health and education, agriculture and job creation.

Mr. Annan noted that the mission was estimated to cost more than $43 million per month up to next June and the unpaid assessed contributions to MINUSTAH’s Special Account now amounted to just over $135 million.

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