Préval calls for unity, continuity in upcoming poll

As Haitian President René Préval began the wrap-up of his five-year presidential mandate on Oct. 17, he urged nationals to vote for stability and continuity in this month’s elections.

Préval and his government ministers traveled to a rural community in the Artibonite Valley to commemorate the 204th anniversary of the assassination of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a founding father of the French-speaking Caribbean nation. Dessalines had led the army that helped Haiti win its independence by defeating the French.

Recalling the country’s violent history, Préval told Haitians that violence has no place either before, during or after the Nov. 28 vote, in which 19 candidates are jockeying for the presidency, and more than 900 are seeking 110 parliamentary seats.

Préval said it was his last official visit as president to commemorate the historic Oct. 17 event that began with a wreath-laying ceremony in the capital, Port-au-Prince. His mandate ends Feb. 7.

In his address, the president refrained from naming names but gave an endorsement of his 104 INITE (UNITY) platform candidates, including Jude Célestin, the Swiss-educated engineer whom he has tapped to succeed him.

“What we did in five years, let’s continue it. It’s a beautiful thing,” Préval said.

“To conserve the progress that has been realized, let’s make a good choice so we don’t have to begin again,” he added.

Préval said despite hunger riots in April 2008, four back-to-back tropical storms and hurricanes months later, and a devastating earthquake on Jan. 12, his government had lots to be proud of.

That progress, Préval said, includes doubling rice production in rice-growing communities, doubling tax receipts, and providing hundreds of new tractors and irrigation pumps for peasants.

He also said the number of asphalted roads in the country also has increased six-fold since his 2006 election, adding that, under Célestin’s leadership, the government’s road-building agency, Centre National des Equipments (CNE), has built 766 miles of roads in the countryside.

“Don’t destroy CNE,”’ Préval pleaded, stating that it took him three years to rebuild the agency following the political crisis that brought him back to power in 2006.

“Let’s put CNE in all of the departments, let’s hold onto stability,” he added.

Haiti officially kicked off public campaigning on Oct. 15.

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