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Haiti Struggles to Organize Presidential Election


The Caribbean nation of Haiti is struggling to organize presidential elections, which were postponed for the fourth time last week. Some Haitian officials are saying the international community is responsible for the delays.

For months, Haiti has been trying to prepare for national elections. But so far, every time the election date approaches, Haiti's provisional electoral council postpones the date. Haitian electoral officials say that the United Nations and the Organization of American States are to blame for the delay.

The vote had been scheduled for January 8, but last week Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council, known locally as the CEP, said the country was still not ready due to logistical problems. The CEP says that only about half the 3.5 million registered voters have received their voter identity cards. They also say that there are not enough polling centers in rural areas, which would force thousands of Haitians to walk for hours in order to vote.

The United Nations began a peacekeeping mission in Haiti in June of 2004. The U.N. has had a prominent role in assuring the logistical and technical preparations for the upcoming elections.

U.N. spokesman Damian Cardona says that the international community is doing everything it can to ensure the elections are fair, and on time.

"From our side, everything was ready," he noted. "All the ballot papers are printed, they are all distributed in the nine different regions. All the voting material arrived a few weeks ago, all generators, solar panels, everything. The 40,000 election workers are already hired and trained, so there is a delay on the distribution of cards but I believe they are going pretty well. Yesterday I heard that 50 percent were already distributed. All the 803 voting centers the CEP gave us have been checked at least three times to make sure they are there and operational."

Mr. Cardona says he expects the CEP to announce a new date for elections in the next few days.

Interim prime minister Gerard Latortue said he plans to step down on February 7. It is unlikely that Haiti will have a new government in place by then.

The U.N. Security Council meets Friday in New York in an urgent session to debate the continuing postponement of Haiti's elections.

These would be the first democratic elections since former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced into exile by an armed rebellion in February 2004.

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