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#2676: Haiti Postpones Elections (fwd)


Haiti Postpones Elections 

 By Michael Norton Associated Press Writer
  Friday, March 3, 2000; 8:28 p.m. EST

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti  Dogged by organizational problems that left
more than 1 million voters unregistered, Haiti on Friday postponed March
19 elections, without specifying a new date. The announcement came only
hours after the U.N. Security Council urged Haiti to stick "as closely
as possible" to its schedule for elections, which it said were crucial
to the Caribbean nation's fledgling democracy. "A new electoral
timetable for the balloting will be published as soon as possible," said
electoral council spokesman Roland Sainristil. He cited "innumerable
difficulties surrounding voter registration." President Rene Preval had
called legislative and municipal elections after dissolving Parliament
in January 1999 to end a political impasse that had paralyzed Haiti's
government since disputed elections in 1997.  Two rounds of voting were
originally set for November and December, then delayed to March 19 and
April 30. Some 29,300 candidates are slated to run for more than 1,000
local and parliamentary offices. Voter registration was supposed to end
Friday, but the council announced that it will extend it to March 15. 
Some 2.9 million people  out of a possible 4 million who were eligible
 have already registered, leaving more than one million unregistered.
But the electoral council was plagued by shortages of materials, pay and
staffing disputes, problems in renting offices and  thefts of
registration documents.The international community is paying half of the
$20 million election budget. Most Haitian politicians had resigned
themselves to a delay. "The provisional electoral council should convene
the political parties and find a consensus for a new date," said senate
candidate Serge Gilles, who heads the five-party Space for Concord
coalition. Many opposition politicians asserted that the delays were
intended to have the local and legislative votes coincide with
presidential elections set for December, when former President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide  Preval's political mentor  will seek a second
term. That way, candidates supported by Aristide could stand a better
chance of winning in general elections with the popular former
president. The government has done everything it can to postpone
elections until the end of the year," said Edmond Dupuy, an opposition
candidate for the lower house of parliament. U.N. diplomats said they
hoped the new date would be within a week or two of the original.     
"It is the view of the Security Council that prompt, free and fair      
legislative and local elections are essential for the restoration of the
national parliament," the president of the council, Ambassador   
Anwarul Chowdhury of Bangladesh, said in a prepared statement.