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Haiti: UN plans to reinforce police for presidential run-off elections

The 3,500-strong United Nations police force in Haiti is planning to reinforce its support of national police for the presidential run-off election on 20 March, although it does not expect trouble, according to the head of the contingent.

“I don’t see any major risk for this second round,” Marc Tardif, head of the police component in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), told the UN News Centre in an interview.

“Clearly it’s going to be a tense period but I don’t think we will have big trouble. We have a good working relationship with the national police and our robust presence will deter anybody wanting to create problems,” he said, noting that in the first round in November the two forces worked together, and despite some incidents, the poll took place in much greater calm than previous elections.

“Still, we’re going to reinforce our positions at those places that were unstable during the first round,” he added.

Trouble broke out after the announcement of provisional results in December from the first round, with thousands of protesters rampaging through the streets of Port-au-Prince, the capital, accusing the ruling coalition of rigging the polls, after tallies put former first lady Mirlande Manigat and outgoing President Rene Préval’s party candidate Jude Celestin in first and second place, thus qualifying for the run-off.

Popular musician Michel Martelly was less than one percentage point behind in third place, but thus excluded from the run-off, and his supporters set up burning barricades of timber, boulders and flaming tires.

After a re-examination of the ballots, the Provisional Electoral Council last month announced that Mr. Martelly had come in second and would thus face Ms. Manigat in the run-off.

Apart from its police component, MINUSTAH, which has been on the ground in Haiti since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest, fields some 8,500 peacekeeping troops in the impoverished country.