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26317: (news) Chamberlain: American businessman barred from Haitian election (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Sept 24 (Reuters) - A prominent
Haitian-American businessman has been barred from running for president of
Haiti because he holds U.S. citizenship but he vowed on Saturday to appeal
Election officials announced on Friday that 22 of the 54 registered
presidential candidates had been rejected, including Dumarsais Simeus, the
head of Texas-based Simeus Foods International, a food processing company.
The Nov. 20 election will be the first since Haitian President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted last year.
Among the candidates who qualified were former Haitian Presidents Rene
Preval and Leslie Manigat, former Prime Minister Marc Bazin, former
Port-au-Prince Mayor Evans Paul and Guy Philippe, a former police chief who
led the armed rebellion that drove Aristide from power.
Aristide was forced from office on Feb. 29, 2004, during a bloody
armed rebellion by gangs and former soldiers and under pressure from the
United States and France to quit. The poor Caribbean nation has since been
run by a U.S.-backed interim government and patrolled by U.N. peacekeeping
Simeus was barred from running because he holds American citizenship,
elections officials said. According to the Haitian constitution, a Haitian
who has obtained foreign citizenship cannot be president.
Simeus said he would appeal the decision.
"I submitted all the required documents. I cannot understand that my
candidacy had been rejected," he said on Saturday. "I am engaged in the
battle to win and I will go all the way."
Several other rejected candidates rushed to the electoral council
headquarters on Saturday to demand their cases be reconsidered. Some
accused election officials of maneuvering to exclude certain candidates,
which electoral council spokesman Stephane Lacroix denied.
"The electoral council has strong evidence of irregularity to support
its decision to dismiss a number of candidates," Lacroix said.
Criticism of the electoral council has been mounting in recent weeks
over the way it has handled election preparations.
Its critics include interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, who said
last week the United States, Canada and other nations had expressed doubt
the council can organize fair elections by the end of the year.
Elections officials also extended the deadline for voter registration
by five days to Friday from Sunday. About 2.5 million of Haiti's 4.5
million voting-age citizens are registered, officials said.
Presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for Nov. 20 and
possible runoffs would take place on Jan. 3. A ballot to elect local
government officials is set for Dec. 11.