CITE SOLEIL, Haiti — On the eve of Haiti’s first election since the overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the capital’s sprawling Cite Soleil slum is a virtual war zone where police do not enter, armed men drive openly in stolen sport utility vehicles, and U.N. peacekeepers are feared by the people they were sent to protect.
    The situation is so bad that Haiti’s provisional electoral council (CEP) has announced it would remove all polling stations from Cite Soleil, meaning many from the seaside city within a city will have to walk miles to vote.
    CEP members say the decision was made to prevent armed groups who control the area from intimidating voters. But Cite Soleil leaders have accused the electoral council of attempting to disenfranchise the slum’s masses.
    Haiti’s future is riding on these elections, which come nearly two years after U.S. Marines whisked Mr. Aristide into exile in South Africa during an armed revolt.
    Although the United Nations has stepped up patrols by its 9,000-member peacekeeping mission in the past week, Cite Soleil remains beyond their control.
    “Cite Soleil is the most serious challenge of our mission,” said Juan Gabriel Valdes, a Chilean diplomat who leads the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known by its French acronym MINUSTAH.
    Two Jordanian battalions with 1,500 troops and more than 50 tanks have been unable to root out the armed groups from the neighborhood’s immense warren of alleyways. Four peacekeepers — three Jordanian soldiers and a Canadian police officer — have been killed in the outskirts of the neighborhood in the past two months.
    Cite Soleil residents blame the U.N. peacekeepers, not the gangs, for the violence. They accuse the blue helmets of shooting wantonly from their tanks and killing innocent civilians, including women and children.
    “Every day the MINUSTAH is shooting people,” said Wilner Pierre, lying on a hospital cot with a large bandage covering his lower stomach.
    The 35-year-old mechanic said U.N. troops shot him in the back while he was walking down the main avenue in Cite Soleil. The bullet exited through his lower abdomen.
    “They stay inside their tanks and stick their guns out,” Mr. Pierre said. “They shoot in any direction and at any person, even babies, it doesn’t matter.”
    Jordanian checkpoints have been hit by more than 1,000 rounds a day, while the peacekeepers routinely shoot twice that many, said a U.N. official who asked to remain anonymous.
    The public hospital received more than 100 gunshot victims last month, at least half of them women, children and elderly, Doctors Without Borders reported. During a recent visit to the hospital, all six gunshot victims said they had been shot by U.N. peacekeepers.
    Jordanian Brig. Gen. Mahmoud Al-Husban, head of the U.N. troops in Port-au-Prince, said the peacekeepers shoot only when fired upon and then only when they can see the shooter.
    He said he cannot know how many civilians are shot because the peacekeepers rarely leave the safety of their tanks.
    Cite Soleil is home to numerous armed groups, some of which remain aligned with Mr. Aristide’s Lavalas party, the country’s largest political force, and now are supporting former President Rene Preval, considered the front-runner in tomorrow’s election.
    Leading members of Haiti’s anti-Aristide elite blame the armed groups in Cite Soleil for a spate of kidnappings that have sowed panic among the capital’s small, middle and upper classes.
    The United Nations has rejected demands for a major offensive against the gangs, and the interim government has been unwilling to consider concessions that could lead to negotiations.
    “There is no military solution to Cite Soleil,” said Gen. Al-Husban. “The solution could be giving the gangs amnesty and giving more social help. Medicine, food, development projects. … It seems that the government is not willing to solve the problem of Cite Soleil and they want us to go there and destroy it, to kill all the people there. We will not do this.”