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#2862: Haiti postpones vote, confuses election picture (fwd)


WIRE:03/15/2000 19:00:00 ET
Haiti postpones vote, confuses election picture
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haitian President Rene Preval Wednesday
declared March 19 elections officially postponed in a decree that did
not mention a new date and left in question an  April 9 vote set by
election officials. Preval's decree further confused Haiti's attempts to
hold  its first national elections in three years, considered an 
important step in the Caribbean nation's efforts to establish a  stable
democracy following decades of dictatorship and military  rule.        
Elections for legislative and municipal posts had been scheduled for
March 19 with run-offs on April 30. But in early  March, elections
officials decided to postpone  the vote after  weeks of protests over a
chaotic  program to register more than  four million voters.  Last week,
the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) set April  9 and May 21 as the
new dates.  But in a public split between Preval and the nine-member 
CEP, an independent body charged  with organizing the elections,Preval
last week called the vote change invalid because it had  not been     
announced by presidential decree.  His new decree, issued Wednesday, did
not set a new date and  ignored a letter the CEP said it had sent Preval
Tuesday asking  the president to set April 9 as the new election date.  
"The (previous) decree setting March 19, 2000 is and  will  remain
canceled," the new decree said.  In a letter made public in Haiti
Wednesday, three U.S. congressmen called on Preval to ensure that     
parliamentary and  local elections are held "without further undue
delay".  The letter, dated March 10 and signed by New York Republican 
Ben Gilman and Democrats John Conyers of Michigan and Charles  Rangel of
New York, said:"The Clinton Administration informs  us that it will use
 all diplomatic means to respond to those who  seek to disrupt or
corrupt the electoral process."In 1994 the United States led 20,000
troops to oust a  three-year military regime in Haiti and restored   
former  President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. Aristide handed
power  to Preval in 1996. In his four years as president, Preval has 
not organized a single successful election.  In January of last year he
dissolved parliament leaving only  eight senators in office and has been
ruling by decree.  The March 19 elections, postponed twice previously, 
were  supposed to establish a new parliament and fill thousands of 
municipal posts.The United Nations Security Council Wednesday        
urged Haitian authorities to work together to complete election
arrangements  as quickly as possible. Two U.N. missions focused on
police  training and human rights ended their stints in Haiti
Wednesday,  leaving a smaller support mission that will work on economic
and  political development.