US envoy Thomas A. Shannon Jr. (L) with Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe
By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- A US envoy said on Tuesday that Haiti needed to organize free and fair legislative and local elections and saluted efforts made by the Haitian political leadership to organize the vote which is crucial for the future of the Caribbean country's democracy and institutional stability.
The US Counselor of the State Department, Thomas A. Shannon Jr., said, during a visit to the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, that the elections, which should take place before the end of the year, matter for Haiti's future.
"Elections matter, elections are important, elections need to take place," Shannon told HCNN on Tuesday, following a meeting with Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, in a hotel in the Petion-Ville district.
"This is a Haitian issue that Haiti has to resolve, but we appreciate the leadership the president has shown, that the prime minister has shown, and we look forward to the Haitian people having an opportunity to vote," Shannon said.
The US envoy made those comments one day after the US embassy in Haiti announced that Secretary of State John Kerry had notified the US Congress that "Haiti was taking steps to hold free and fair parliamentary elections and to seat a new Haitian Parliament."
"Haiti is an important partner of ours and we, along with the international community, want to be able to engage with Haiti in the forming of its democracy, and election is an important part of this," Shannon explained.
The Haitian President Michel Martelly appointed last week a new provisional electoral council to organize a ballot to elect two thirds of the 30-member Senate, to renew the entire Lower Chamber and scores of local government authorities. The new nine-member electoral panel took office on Monday.
However, political hardliners in the opposition have criticized the position of the US government they accused of taking sides for the Haitian government.
"President Martelly and the government have no will to organize free and fair elections," opposition Senator, Jean-Baptiste Bien-Aimé told HCNN. "They have the support of the Obama administration and of the international community because those foreign powers are defending their own interests in Haiti," he said.
All the international partners of Haiti -- such as the US, Canada, France, the European Union, Brazil, Venezuela, the UN and the OAS -- have repeatedly supported efforts by the Haitian leadership to organize elections no later than October 26, this year.
If the elections are not held in time to allow the new legislature to be sworn in by the second Monday of January 2015, the entire Parliament will become dysfunctional.