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article imageHaiti launches campaign season

By AFP     Aug 23, 2016 in World

Haiti officially kicked off its campaign season for parliamentary and presidential elections in October after first-round presidential voting results last year were scrapped because of massive electoral fraud and violence.

"Many people were skeptical, there were doubts about how the elections would be conducted," said Leopold Berlanger, who heads the provisional electoral council, or CEP.

"But today, as you can see, the campaign has begun."

Haiti has been mired in deep political crisis since violence disrupted parliamentary elections in August 2015, prompting the vote to be canceled in nearly a quarter of constituencies.

The crisis later came to a head following the announcement of results from the first round of the presidential vote in October.

Challenged by the opposition after an independent commission concluded that the vote had been plagued by "massive fraud," the government annulled the results and called for a fresh presidential election.

Nearly 6.2 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots on October 9 in the first round of the presidential election as well as a legislative vote. The presidential election's second round is scheduled for January 8.

Berlanger urged calm.

"A competition is not a fight, it is not a pitched battle," Berlanger told a news conference.

"We want to tell all compatriots taking part in the electoral competition, political parties, organizations and candidates, they have a duty to respect the rules of democratic contest," he added.

"We can't descend into a battle in which insults and violence mar the campaign."

Barely a quarter of the electorate turned out in 2015. The CEP acknowledged its work is cut out for it to encourage voters to return to the process following last year's fiascos.

"We want the people to be proud of these elections, to protect these elections so that no one disturbs them," Berlanger said. "We want to prove to all countries that we can take our own affairs in hand."

Of the 54 candidates who took part in the presidential vote last year, 27 have confirmed they will participate in the election of a successor to Michel Martelly, who left office in February without a replacement.

Haiti is still led by interim president Jocelerme Privert, whose mandate officially ended in June.

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