Doubts have begun surfacing this week in Haiti about the viability of holding national elections on schedule on November 28 as the country grapples with an ongoing cholera epidemic, which has already claimed over 300 lives. While electoral officials including Pierre-Louis Opont, director general of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council, insist that polls will open as planned, at least one presidential candidate has said that if the outbreak reaches national proportions, the polls should be postponed.
The deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization noted yesterday that 500 new cases of cholera have been confirmed in the northern part of the country and World Health Organization officials have alerted the Haitian government to brace for the possibility of the disease spreading to Port-au-Prince, in which case the country would witness a severe epidemic.
Although some observers are skeptical that the presence of the disease could affect the national elections next month, current President René Préval has also recently voiced fears that voters could potentially contract the disease at the polls. Others have warned that potential voters may stay home on election day out of fear.
The United Nations peacekeeping force in Haiti says it can guarantee security during the elections, but low levels of public confidence in the electoral process, lingering post-earthquake disarray and, now, cholera may prove insurmountable obstacles to successful national elections.