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#428: Date Set for Elections Reuters090799 from Slavin (fwd)


Haitian officials set date for elections

By Jennifer Bauduy

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Haiti's provisional electoral 
council Tuesday proposed Dec. 19 as the date for legislative and municipal 
elections, the troubled Caribbean nation's first voting in two-and-a-half 

Election officials made the announcement Tuesday after a meeting with 
political parties and civic groups. The proposed date must be sent to 
President Rene Preval for approval. 

``New elections are definite,'' Serge Gilles, leader of the centre left 
Haitian National Progressive Revolutionary Party, told Reuters. 

``This is what we hoped for,'' said former Port-au-Prince Mayor Evans Paul, 
who is leader of the Democratic Initiative Convention Party. 

Haiti has been locked in a political crisis since then-Prime Minister Rosny 
Smarth resigned in June 1997 and President Rene Preval's long struggle with 
parliament to install a successor, which took place only after Preval 
declared in January that the terms of most members of parliament had expired. 

Many Haitians view elections as the only way to ensure the survival of the 
country's fledgling democratic institutions, which have been established only 
in the five years since U.S. troops invaded Haiti to oust a military regime 
and restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide, its first freely elected president. 

Haitian leaders and the international community, which has had troops and 
police trainers in Haiti since the U.S. occupation began in September 1994, 
have been watching closely for the country's progress to the vote. 

Voting for local and legislative posts had been expected to take place in 
November but was delayed for logistic reasons. 

Haitian officials face a gargantuan task in preparing for a new election. 
Nearly 4 million eligible voters out of the country's 7.5 million population 
must be registered in time for the vote. 

Sixty percent of the population lives in rural, mountainous areas with 
extremely limited access to communications links. The last vote, in April 
1997, attracted only 5 percent of eligible voters. 

``It is a tight schedule, but if there is the will from all the actors -- the 
electoral council, the government and the political class -- it can be 
done,'' Paul said. 

The parliament elected in the new vote was expected to open its session on 
Jan. 10, according to the proposed calendar, but the Provisional Electoral 
Council suggested a runoff vote, if necessary, for Jan. 16. 

18:12 09-07-99

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.