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#2045: Voter Registration Delayed Again in Haiti Capital (fwd)


Thursday January 27 4:01 PM ET 
 Voter Registration Delayed Again in Haiti Capital---- By Chris Chapman

 PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Voters across Haiti's capital were turned
away from registration offices when they tried to obtain voter cards
Thursday, the third time a deadline for the start of registration has
passed. The massive project to register some 4 million eligible voters
among Haiti's 7.5 million people is a crucial step toward the Caribbean
nation's bid to hold its first national elections in
 three years. The election, for legislative and municipal offices, is
scheduled for March 19 but the delays have called into question the
government's ability to organize the vote on time. The poorest nation in
the Western hemisphere, Haiti is struggling to establish a 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. At registration offices in the Port-au-Prince and Delmas
municipalities, staff was absent or had no equipment to make the cards
Thursday. ``We have nothing here, no equipment, no materials to make the
voter cards,'' said Philogene Bertha, president of a registration office
at Port-au-Prince city hall. Bertha said she had been there every day
since Monday and each day around 20 people came asking to register.
 However in Petionville, an upper-class suburb of the capital,
registration was taking place and people lined up to obtain a new
electoral card with photo, a first in Haiti. The Caribbean nation is
moving fitfully toward the first round of parliamentary and local
 elections on March 19. Voter registration, originally scheduled for
Jan. 10, was postponed until Monday this week due to continuing
instability in the Grande Anse department in the south of Haiti.
 But on Monday the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced that
registration in some areas including the capital would be rescheduled
for Thursday because staff were not sufficiently trained. Elections
officials were not available to comment on the reasons for
 Thursday's setback. In the Grande Anse, the Resistance Coordination of
Grande-Anse (KOREGA) party, linked to Lavalas Family, the party of
former president Aristide, has been protesting against the choice of
electoral supervisors in the region. There were violent demonstrations
against supervisors in September and December last year, and in one
town, Anse d'Hainault, the local electoral office was closed in
December. In other localities across Haiti, registration was not taking
place, either due to demonstrations by partisans of various parties
protesting against the political affiliation of registration office
staff, destruction of electoral materials, or the staff themselves
claiming higher wages, local radio reported Thursday.