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26632: (news) Chamberlain: More confusion over Haiti election dates (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Election officials on Sunday
called into question Haiti's Dec. 27 election date, revealing a conflict
between election organizers and the interim government of the troubled
Just three days after government officials announced "confirmed and
final" dates for the long-delayed national poll, members of Haiti's
electoral council, which is charged with organizing the vote, said they had
not approved the schedule.
Haiti's interim prime minister, Gerard Latortue, and Michel Brunache,
chief of staff for President Boniface Alexandre, both said on Thursday that
presidential and legislative elections were scheduled for Dec. 27, with a
possible runoff on Jan. 31.
But election officials, who have the authority to set the schedule,
said on Sunday they are not bound by those dates.
"The government and the presidency announced their own schedule, but
not that of the electoral council, which has not yet been decided," Patrick
Fequiere, an influential member of the electoral council, told Reuters.
"The council may decide to maintain those dates or to choose other
dates, but we still have to make that decision," Fequiere said.
Haiti is struggling to hold its first election since then-President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide was driven from office in February 2004 by an armed
rebellion and foreign pressure to quit.
The constitution requires the inauguration of a new president by Feb.
7, 2006. Logistical problems, political violence and legal challenges have
forced authorities to postpone voting several times.
Electoral council officials said the dates were given to the
government by election administrator Jacques Bernard without the approval
of the nine-member council.
When Brunache confirmed the election dates on Thursday, calling them
"confirmed and final," he said an official ceremony would be held at the
presidential palace to make a formal announcement on Thursday evening.
But electoral council members declined to attend the ceremony.
Instead, they sent a delegation headed by council President Max Mathurin to
tell Alexandre and Latortue that the council could not endorse the
Mathurin told reporters the council would publish the official
schedule on Monday.
Latortue said on Saturday that only the electoral council could set
"We, now, can only wait, since Mr. Mathurin said the new schedule
would be known on Monday," Latortue said on local radio.
The dispute fed growing concerns among Haitian politicians about the
credibility of the election process.
"The electoral council and the government don't seem to know what they
are doing," said Evans Paul, a presidential candidate and former