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#2784: Haiti Sets New Election Dates (fwd)


Wednesday March 8 8:06 PM ET  Haiti Sets New Election Dates

 By MICHAEL NORTON, Associated Press Writer 

 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - After two postponements, Haiti's electoral
council on Wednesday rescheduled the country's long-delayed elections
for April 9 and May 21. The elections for more than 1,000 local and
parliamentary offices were originally set for last November and
 December. But organizational problems forced the electoral council to
reschedule the two rounds for March 19 and April 30, for a second time.
Those dates were postponed last week. President Rene Preval 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. Some 2.9 million people -
out of a possible 4 million who were eligible - have registered. But
registration was hampered by problems at the electoral council,
including shortages of materials, pay and staffing disputes and
 theft of registration documents. The council has extended voter
registration to March 15.
 The United Nations Security Council last week had urged Haiti to stick
to its elections timetable ``as closely as possible'' because it
considered the vote crucial for the country's fledgling democracy. With
the new dates, the Caribbean nation should induct a new parliament on
June 12, the electoral council said in a statement Wednesday.
 Some 100 international election observers are expected to monitor the
vote. The international community is paying about half of the $20
million elections budget.