Haiti might have to postpone elections again

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

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The first round of the presidential elections, currently scheduled for January 8, 2006, might have to be delayed, according to some members of the electoral council. This would mark the 4th time the presidential elections have been moved, and the 5th time for all elections.

The chairman of the council, Max Mathurin, expressed concern over political unrest that could occur if conditions were not adequate to ensure fair elections. He said, "If certain major technical problems are not solved, elections on Jan. 8 could be a catastrophe." The problems related to the current possible postponement involve distribution of voter identification cards, a lack of poll centers, and recruitment of poll center workers. According to Reuters, only 500,000 of the 3.5 million voter identification cards have been handed out and few of the 40,000 needed poll workers have been recruited.

Rosemond Pradel, Secretary-General of the electoral council, told reporters that sometime between January 22 and January 29 would likely be the new dates of the elections are indeed rescheduled. However one council member, Patrick Fequiere, suggested that several months might be needed to guarantee fair elections. Pradel blames the delays, in part, on the Organization of American States (OAS). He is quoted as saying, "Our decision to set the January 8th deadline for the first round was based on OAS' commitment that voting cards distribution would have been completed by December 25."

However the OAS struck back in Friday saying that "Ninety per cent of the cards are already in the electoral centres, waiting for people to pick them up," and "Our problem is that most voters have stopped coming to the centres," according to OAS spokeperson Louise Brunet. Denneth Modeste, OAS ambassador to Haiti, says that people are not coming to the centres to pick up their cards because they don't believe the elections will take place as scheduled. She said that "the Provisional Electoral Council should be the leading agency inciting people to collect their cards, instead of spreading doubts."

One presidential candidate, Evans Paul, complained about the problems saying "I've never seen elections so poorly organized," and "it's not acceptable that people have to struggle for hours in line to register, they have to do the same to get the voting cards, and now they have to walk six hours to reach a place to cast their ballot."

Max Mathurin says that they should know by next week whether or not the current date of January 8, 2006 is a realistic target for holding the first round of the presidential elections. Juan Gabriel Valdes of the UN's peacekeeping missions says that his people are completely ready for elections if they are to take place on January 8th.

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