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25646: Wharram - news - Logistics, violence may delay Haiti vote (fwd)
Logistics, violence may delay Haiti vote
Sunday, July 10, 2005
By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Two hours into her wait outside the Delmas 62
police station, Lady Cetoute had made little progress toward the head of the
line to register for Haiti's first national identity card.
But having little else to do and much to fear about the future, she stayed
put, jostling with dozens of others crowded between parked cars and the
blue-and-white cinderblock facade of the station.
"We need this," the unemployed 28-year-old said earnestly of the ID card
that will also serve as voter registration for planned fall elections. "It's
important for the country; I want to get my card now, because there could be
A series of elections is supposed to begin Oct. 9, but militant supporters
of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide have blocked the opening of ID
registration centers in the slums that are home to 2.5 million people and
who make up more than a quarter of the country's population.
More than 5 percent of eligible voters had signed up for cards by the start
of this month, raising prospects for postponing Oct. 9 elections for local
offices as well as Nov. 13 parliamentary and presidential votes. Any
presidential runoff is set for Dec. 18.
The security delays and threats against would-be voters follow slow delivery
of generators to power the state-of-the-art identification system in the
desolate provinces, and protracted negotiations with rural authorities to
prepare polling places.
Despite the uphill battles still being waged against bureaucracy and
bloodshed, those charged with organizing the elections contend that they are
confident that the voting will happen.
Rosemond Pradel, administrator of the Provisional Electoral Council, vows
that the balloting will be held this autumn, whether or not all eligible
voters have had a chance to register. He argues that the will of the people
cannot be ignored just because a few hundred gangsters are wreaking havoc.
"We think the police and MINUSTAH [the U.N. peacekeeping mission] will take
the necessary steps to pacify the lawless areas," Pradel said. "But if they
can't, this represents only about 10 percent of the population. We may have
to have elections with 90 percent of the population that is ready, and have
them for the other 10 percent later."
Pradel believes that the peacekeepers, who have shown little resolve to
confront the armed gangs in more than a year in Haiti, will be forced into
more action. "The international community is spending $60 million for
elections and $500 million for MINUSTAH," he said. "You can't spend that
kind of money and get zero as a result."
Last month, the U.N. Security Council boosted the peacekeeping force by
1,000 troops, to 8,500, to provide additional security in the run-up to
Since Aristide's Feb. 29, 2004, departure to escape an armed rebellion,
Haiti has been governed by an appointed former U.N. official, Prime Minister
Gerard Latortue, and patrolled by the Brazilian-led U.N. mission.
The U.N. and other international representatives laud the ID system and
express confidence that they can be ready to carry out the voting reasonably
"Over 40 percent of the people in Haiti don't even have birth certificates,"
said Gerard LeChevallier, electoral assistance chief for the U.N. mission.
"We use the same equipment as the Homeland Security Agency, and if it's good
enough to prevent Osama bin Laden from slipping into Washington, D.C., it
can keep a humble Haitian from voting twice."
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