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# 185: Haiti's president approves election law (fwd)


Haiti's president approves election law   04:04 p.m Jul 17, 1999 Eastern
 PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 17 (Reuters) - Haiti's president has approved a
controversial election law, moving the Caribbean nation one step closer
to holding its first elections in more than two years, local radio
stations said on Saturday. 
Haiti's last elections, for legislative and municipal posts, were
held in April 1997. Fraught with irregularities, they were widely    
considered fraudulent, and the winners never took office. The Lavalas
Family, the party of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide, won two
Senate seats in the contested elections and has continued to claim
them.  Haiti's independent nine-member election council, which has
the     authority to decide on election disagreements, never
ruled        directly on the validity of the 1997 election results. But
the council's newly drafted election law, which President Rene Preval
signed late on Friday, says the next elections will fill all seats in
the Chamber of Deputies and 19 empty Senate seats, not 17, as would have
been the case if the 1997 results had been validated. Observers had
feared that Preval, who was Aristide's protege and who is closely allied
to the Lavalas Family, would not sign the law. The elections are
tentatively scheduled for November and December. The law must be printed
in the nation's official journal before the electoral process can
unfold. Officials said they expected the law to be published
shortly.         Haiti has been without a parliament since January, and
the         stalemate has held up more than $500 million in
international aid to the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, according
to the United Nations.