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#181: U.S. releases $3.5 million for Haitian election (fwd)


U.S. releases $3.5 million for Haitian election                       
02:01 p.m Aug 03, 1999 Eastern  By Jennifer Bauduy 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Aug 3 (Reuters) - The United States has released $3.5
million in election funds to Haiti to create voter registration cards, a
key step toward the Caribbean  nation's first legislative elections in
more than two years,election officials said on Tuesday. `We are being
given the electoral cards through a grant by USAID,'' Leon Manus,
president of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), said.       
Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, is struggling to
establish stable democracy following decades of  dictatorship. A
U.S.-led intervention force of 20,000 troops helped oust a military
junta in 1994, restoring to power the  nation's first freely elected
leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. U.S. officials said another
approximately $10 million in U.S.funds earmarked for the November
elections could not be released until Haiti provided a ``transparent
resolution'' to contested 1997 legislative and local elections. A new
election law published on July 30 failed to void results from the 1997
vote, which was marred by widespread fraud.Two senators from Aristide's
party who were elected that  day continue to claim the right to their
posts. Haiti's government has been crippled for the past two years,
in part by wrangling over the contested April 1997 election. President
Rene Preval in January declared that legislative terms had ended and
began ruling by decree. He installed a new prime minister and cabinet in
March. The Haitian government said it will depend heavily on
international aid in order to hold the Nov. 28 elections expected to
cost $18.3 million. U.S. Agency for International Development funds will
pay for the photo identification cards for the approximately four       
million eligible voters among Haiti's 7.5 million people.  The creation
of the voter ID became controversial recently  when a local consortium
that bid on the contract for the cards alleged fraud in the selection
process. The process was guided by the International Fund for Electoral
Systems (IFES), a USAID-funded project. A Canadian firm, Code Canada,
won the multimillion-dollar contract. ``This is to show you that foreign
aid to Haiti's election is conditional,'' Jean-Pierre Bailly, president
of the computer company Companet, which formed part of the Haitian   
consortium.  ``Canada is going to give aid, but they want to purchase
things from themselves,'' Bailly said.  CEP spokesman Gerin Alexandre
said that the Canadian company had provided the least expensive bid with
the most advantages and that the contract was to be signed on Tuesday.
`The process was handled in total honesty by the CEP,''said Micheline
Begin, who directs IFES, told Reuters.