Latin America & Caribbean

Top US diplomat urges Haitians to vote 'without violence'

John Kerry and Michel Martelly Image copyright AFP
Image caption John Kerry met Michel Martelly during a brief stop in Port-au-Prince

The United States Secretary of State John Kerry has urged Haitians to vote in this month's presidential election and help "develop strong democratic institutions".

During a brief stop in Haiti, Mr Kerry said the poll should be held "without violence and without intimidation".

Mr Kerry said the 25 October vote must go ahead despite security concerns.

August's parliamentary election was marred by violence, low turnout and fraud allegations.

Only a few candidates have been officially elected. New polls will need to be held in a number of constituencies.

Earlier planned elections had been cancelled in 2011 and 2014, prompting months of violent street protests against President Michel Martelly.

'Far from perfect'

"Over the next three weeks there is all the opportunity to take advantage of the election process," said Mr Kerry, who stopped in Port-au-Prince on his way back from a conference in Chile.

"Haiti needs governing institutions that are legitimate and representative, and those cannot come into being without free and fair elections that take part without intimidation, without violence," he said.

Mr Kerry said he had a "productive" meeting with Mr Martelly, who is constitutionally banned from seeking re-election.

The 9 August election had been "far from perfect," said Mr Martelly, but the presidential vote will be better organised, he promised.

More than 50 candidates are running. Some of them are barely known across Haiti and no one is expected to get more than 50% of the vote.

A runoff vote is expected to take place on 27 December.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Since it was devastated by an earthquake in 2010, it has relied largely on international donations and foreign aid from the United States and other countries.

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