[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#2751: ANALYSIS-Haiti election delay prompts concern (fwd)


WIRE:03/06/2000 18:21:00 ET
  ANALYSIS-Haiti election delay prompts
PORT-AU-PRINCE, March 6(Reuters) - Few in Haiti were surprised when
officials postponed elections last week, but many  on Monday were
concerned that lack of technical expertise and  political infighting
might mean a lengthy postponement.  Legislative and municipal elections
were scheduled  for March  19 with run-offs on April 30. But numerous 
setbacks in  registering Haiti's four million voters --including
widespread  theft of voter card materials --forced electoral officials
on  Friday to extend registration and delay the election.  The
nine-member Provisional Electoral Council (CEP)did not  set a date but
said it would publish a new election timetable  shortly.  It was a good
decision," Canadian Ambassador Gilles  Bernier told Reuters. Like many
in Haiti, which has a history of electoral fraud,  Bernier said the
elections must be organised  properly and all  voters registered. Nobody
wants a  repeat of Haiti's last  election -- legislative and municipal
elections on April 6,  1997, which were annulled because of widespread
fraud. "The delay should not be too long because that could cause  the
country a lot of problems," Bernier said,speculating that  the elections
could be held in early April.  U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
expressed concern about  the delay and said the country needed to hold a
new ballot  quickly.  "He emphasises the importance of prompt, free and
fair  legislative and local elections for the restoration of Haiti's 
parliament and for the strengthening of Haiti's democracy,"  U.N.
spokesman Fred Eckhard said.  The date of the next elections takes on
added importance in  Haiti this year because presidential are set for 
December. Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is largely  expected
to run for and win the presidency. His opponents do not  wantlegislative
and presidential elections to be held together.  

Opposition groups hope to curtail Aristide's power as president by at
least controlling parliament. They fear that if  one election is held in
December for all posts, Aristide's  popularity could help sweep his
Lavalas Family party candidates  into office.  "We have to, on the one
hand, avoid one general election at  the end of the year," Micha
Gaillard, a Port-au-Prince mayoral  candidate, said. "At the same       
time, though we may not like it,  we must allow another two or three
weeks at the most, so that  everyone is comfortable with these
elections."  The electoral process has been marred by
protests,vandalism  and numerous demonstrations in recent months sparked
by  insufficient voter registration offices and absence of voter 
materials. Partly to blame for the chaos is an inexperienced  election 
body, observers say.  "There is a problem of expertise at the heart of
the electoral council, which has resulted in a lot of administrative 
and technical problems," said one analyst, who asked not to be  named. 
Haitian law requires a nine-member permanent independent  election body
-- selected by local   representatives nationwide --  to serve a 10-year
term and organise all elections.  


That body was supposed to have been created following the  annulled 1997
elections. Instead, Haiti's elections continue to  be organised by a
temporary or  provisional election council,  with individuals who lack
experience, and who are often tied to  political parties."Each party
that is inside the electoral council always  tries to control the
electoral process in their favour," the  analyst said, adding that the
current electoral  council is  heavily influenced by President Rene     
Preval.  Preval, Aristide's close friend, named six of the current 
electoral council members, and selected the other three from a  list of
candidates proposed by a  group of political parties.  The dilemma is --
a provisional electoral council which  can never organise good
elections, and a permanent electoral  council which can never be      
established," the analyst said.  If all goes well with upcoming
elections, a permanent  electoral body should eventually be created.  
"Everyone wants to control the process so that they can  have their
people inside the Permanent Electoral Council, people  who will be there
to organiselections for 10 years," the  analyst said. As the delayed
legislative and municipal elections, no  one really knows if they will
be perpetually delayed.  "There must be elections before the end of the
year,but  when? Will it be general elections? Will it be partial 
elections? This is the big question. Unfortunately, all this  depends on
the president," the analyst said.