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#2235: Voter registration delayed again in Haiti capital (fwd)


Voter registration delayed again in Haiti capital 
07:38 p.m Jan 27, 2000 Eastern _________ By Chris Chapman 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 27 (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 organise 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. here 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 ofregistration office staff, destruction of
electoral materials, or  the staff themselves claiming higher wages,
local radio reported Thursday.