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#2784: Haiti again sets new election dates (REUTERS) (fwd)


WIRE:03/08/2000 19:31:00 ET
Haiti again sets new election  dates
PORT-AU-PRINCE, (Reuters) - Haiti,struggling to build  democratic
Institutions five years after a U.S. Invasion that  aimed to restore
political order, set a fresh election date  Wednesday after postponing
the polls three times in the past  four months.  The Provisional
Electoral Committee (CEP) said in a  statement that the legislative and
 municipal elections, the  first elections in three years in the
Caribbean nation, will be  held April 9, with a  run-off May 21.       
The new date was set after the CEP postponed the elections,  which had
been due to take place March 19 and April 30, last  Friday after
widespread problems  with the voter registration  process, in order to
give the  country's more than 4 million  voters a chance to         
register. At least 30 percent of voters have not been able to register,
according to the Organization of American States (OAS)  Electoral
Observation Mission in Haiti.  The elections in Haiti, the poorest
nation in the  Americas  and struggling to shake off a history of 
dictatorships, had  already been postponed twice previously.  The
process of organizing the vote has been marred by  frequent protests,
sparked by insufficient voter registration  offices and a lack of
materials to make the voter identity  cards.  "The goal of these
demonstrations is to create a  climate of  chaos and to discredit the
CEP by making  others believe in its  inability to manage the
situation,"the CEP statement said of  the recent protests.  Election
officials said they had underestimated the current  voter population
using a figure from the  government statistics  office and ordered
materials for  an estimated 4.2 million  eligible voters, but Haiti's  
population had grown.  Film and laminated materials to make voter cards
quickly ran  out due to waste, theft, fraud and arson.   "Many voters
... unfortunately went around to different  voter bureaus in their town
or in neighboring regions to make  duplicate voter cards," the
statement  said. Haiti has been trying to shake the legacy of decades of
dictatorship since 20,000 U.S.-led troops ousted a military  regime in
1994 and restored then-President Jean-Bertrand  Aristide, its first
freely elected president, to power.  When Aristide's term ended in 1996
he handed power  to his  protege, President Rene Preval. His term has
 been scarred by a  government crisis since the 1997 legislative
election, which  were annulled because of widespread fraud. Preval has
been  ruling by decree  since dissolving parliament in January 1999.    
The elections now being organized were originally  due to  take place on
Nov. 28, 1999, then postponed  to Dec. 19. Before  last Friday's
postponement, election officials had vowed  elections would definitely
be held March 19.  The elections are to fill 10,000 empty elected posts
 nationwide, including two-thirds of the Senate and the  entire  Chamber
of Deputies which make up Haiti's parliament. Some  29,000 candidates
are running.  
"The (OAS) Mission considers that these elections must be  held as soon
as possible," said an OAS press statement  Wednesday, adding that the
Mission  considered elections could be  organized by April 9.  Haiti's
next parliament should begin functioning June 12, as  mandated by the
Constitution, said the CEP statement which was  signed by the electoral
body's  president, Leon Manus, and its  secretary general,Irma Rateau.  
"The Provisional Electoral Council solemnly states that this decision
come to after much consideration is irreversible.  We must, for the good
of the nation end this political crisis  which has lasted too long," the
statement said.