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#4323: After Delay, Haiti Vote Set for May (fwd)


Tuesday April 11 8:46 PM ET 
 After Delay, Haiti Vote Set for May

 By MICHAEL NORTON, Associated Press Writer 

 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Haiti's long-delayed legislative and local
elections will be held May 21, the electoral council announced Tuesday,
in an effort to halt rising tensions in the troubled Caribbean country.
 The elections have been delayed three times since November, and
opposition politicians have accused President Rene Preval of trying to
derail the voting. The last delay came when Preval rejected an April 9
date, saying the council had no authority to set a date without
consulting him.                                                    
Opposition leaders received Tuesday's announcement warily.``The
president has not yet officially set the new date,'' said Gerard        
Pierre-Charles, leader of the majority opposition Struggling People's 
Organization. ``We must consult with other parties and with our members
before  we decide whether the new dates would be acceptable.''
 The new date, however, appeared to have Preval's support. Preval said
Tuesday that he and the nine electoral council members had reached a
``consensus'' Monday night. He spoke before he left for a conference in
Cuba and before the council's announcement. Election council member
Carlo Dupiton said, ``I don't think there will be any new
postponement.'' He said the vote would be held May 21, ``so the
atmosphere will be less tense'' - referring to the turmoil that has
shaken the capital this month. The new date will not become official
until Preval publishes an executive order to that effect. Preval has
previously said there will be presidential elections Nov. 12. Dupiton
did not say when a second round of voting in the legislative and local
elections would be held. But it could not be in time to install a new
Parliament on June 12, as the United States and many Haitian political
 parties have demanded. Second rounds are held to resolve inconclusive
elections where no candidate has won the required 50 percent of votes.
 Haiti has not had a Parliament since January 1999, when Preval shut it
down after an 18-month power struggle with the Struggling People's
Organization. Preval appointed a new premier and the electoral council
by decree in March 1999. Elections have not been held since 1997 polls
that the opposition charged were rigged to pack Parliament with
 allies of Preval and former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is
widely favored to win the coming presidential election.