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#2016: U.S. official urges Haiti to stick to March vote (fwd)


U.S. official urges Haiti to stick to March vote                     
08:06 p.m Jan 25, 2000 Eastern By Chris Chapman 

 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Amid growing concern about lagging
voter registration for crucial national elections in March, a U.S. State
Department official urged Haiti to stick to its election timetable,
local radio reported on  Tuesday. ``The holding of credible elections
scheduled for March 19 is  essential for the credibility of presidential
elections at the end of this year,'' said Donald Steinberg, the State
Department's  Special Haiti Coordinator, during a meeting with members
of the  Haitian business community on Monday.  ``Free and fair elections
can empower the government to create   jobs, to attract new private
investment, to negotiate new co-operation from foreign donors, and to
attack festering social problems like crime, insecurity, corruption, and
drug trafficking,''teinberg said. Haiti is due to hold parliamentary and
local elections on March 19, the first national vote since the
resignation of Prime Minister Rosny Smarth in 1997 triggered a
constitutional crisis in the  politically unstable Caribbean nation.    
U.S.-led multinational troops peacefully invaded Haiti in 1994,    
restoring freely elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide three     
years after he was ousted by a military junta.  Since then, Haiti has
taken tenuous steps toward stabilising a democracy, disbanding the
feared army and replacing it with the  nation's first civilian police
force.  Voter registration for the March elections, which started on   
Monday, was stymied in various places, including the capital   
Port-au-Prince, by demonstrations or administrative problems,          
police and local radio reported.  In Arcahaie, 19 miles (30 km) north of
the capital, demonstrators set fire to ballot papers and other electoral
     material, preventing two registration offices from opening,        
Inspector Bertrand Ludwige of Arcahaie police told Reuters. The
demonstrators were protesting against an administrative error which,
they said, disqualified candidates from the area from the electoral
race, Ludwige said.  Offices in Port-au-Prince stayed shut due to a lack
of trained  electoral staff, but the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP)
said  they would open on Thursday. Voter registration had been scheduled
to start on Jan. 10 but was put off for two weeks. It began Monday in
some areas but was delayed in the capital. The delays have led to
speculation that the March vote, which would be Haiti's first in three
years, will be set back.