Nearly three million Haitians are registered to vote in late November in the first round of presidential and parliamentary elections. The second round will be held in January, with a new president scheduled to take office in February.
The election campaign begins with Haitians being offered a list of thirty-two presidential candidates. In the weeks leading up to the elections, Haitians will have the opportunity to learn more about the candidates and their plans for Haiti.
The new president will take over from an interim Haitian government headed by President Boniface Alexandre and Prime Minister Gerard Latortue. They were selected in 2004 by a Council of Eminent Persons to form a government to replace the one headed by former President Aristide.
Following a year of growing protest against his autocratic rule, Mr. Aristide resigned and fled into exile as armed rebels marched on Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital in February 2004. Mr. Aristide had failed to govern democratically and had resorted to violence against political opponents. Parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2004 never occurred because of the level of violence in the country.
The Organization of American States is providing assistance to the voter registration campaign. Albert Ramdin, the organization's assistant secretary-general, says the "objective is to have the best possible elections in Haiti, elections which are free, fair, and at the same time credible."
On a visit to Haiti, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that by voting, the Haitian people could take charge of their future:
"Throughout history people have fought for the right to vote. Some have indeed died for the right to vote. There is no weapon more powerful in the hands of a citizen than the vote. And so to the people of Haiti, I urge you to use that powerful weapon – the vote – in the days ahead."
"The process that Haiti has now embarked on, this electoral process," says Ms. Rice, "can change the course of history for Haiti. It can make for [a] so much better future for the Haitian people."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.