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#1989: False start for voter registration in Haiti (fwd)


False start for voter registration in Haiti 8:15 p.m Jan 24, 2000
Eastern -------By Chris Chapman 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The official start of  voter
registration for Haitian elections in March was postponed  in several
areas on Monday because of the destruction of offices  or administrative
problems, officials said.  An announcement that registration offices in
the capital would   not open on schedule was not made until the day
itself. ``Voter registration has started today but in Port-au-Prince, 
unfortunately, the programme was not able to begin, the staff of
the registration offices have not yet been fully trained,'' said      
Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) spokesman Roland  Sainristil.     
In two localities in the south of Haiti, Beaumont and Petit Goave,
 electoral offices were burned down during the weekend, ruling          
out the start of registration there, Sainristil said.  Nearly 100 boxes
of equipment and materials were destroyed. According to radio reports, a
grass-roots organisation in Beaumont took responsibility for the fire
and insisted that  elections would not be held in the area unless
officials consulted them and took their demands seriously. Political
parties from different sides denounced the weekend's violence.     
``There are sectors who don't want the elections to happen. We       
demand that the president take all measures which are open to        
him in order to block this campaign of violence,'' Gerard Pierre      
Charles, president of the Organisation of People in Struggle, told     
local radio.   This poor Caribbean nation is due on March 19 to hold its
first  ballot since April 1997 senatorial elections, the results of
which were disputed by parliament and provoked a constitutional crisis 
which has persisted to this day. Haiti has suffered a history of brutal
dictatorship and little democracy. A U.S.-led invasion in 1994 ousted
one military regime and restored an elected president, Jean-Bertrand  
Aristide, but the political situation in this nation of seven million 
people has remained troubled. Sainristil the timetable for the March
elections still stood. But the CEP could not yet give a new date for the
opening of voter registration in Port-au-Prince, Beaumont and Petit
Goave. There are 4,000 BIs across the country. Many people in
Port-au-Prince were unaware that voter registration was due to start
Monday anyway. ``I didn't hear anything about it. There were no
announcements on the radio. I don't know if there's a registration
office in my area. If there was I'd go and get my card', said Solange
Pierre, a bank employee. Voter registration has already been postponed
once; the Jan. 10 date originally set passed. The CEP said the reason
was a conflict between political parties and electoral supervisors in
the Grande Anse department. Violent demonstrations erupted in the town
of Anse d'Hainault in Grande Anse on Dec. 22. ``Every effort is being
made so that voter registration can take place in Grande Anse. Nine out
of 12 electoral offices are openthere. It's up to the police to do its
work now, we've assumed our responsibilities', said Sainristil.