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Haitian Election Date Nears, Fears of Delay

A top election official in Haiti has warned that upcoming presidential elections may face delays due to lack of preparation. But the Provisional Council on Elections, known locally as the CEP, says that no delay has been officially planned.

Local press reports that Provisional Council on Elections President Patrick Fequiere warned the government does not have the time or the logistical means to carry out national elections in two months. He said Haitian election officials need significant support in order to prepare ballots, distribute voter identification cards, and adequately set up polling sites in time for November 20.

But CEP spokesman Stephane Lacroix says the commission is doing everything it can to keep the elections on schedule for November 20.

Mr. Lacroix says that at present, no change in the election schedule has been officially planned. He says that there are flaws and technical problems in the election preparations. Lack of electricity and bad roads have kept many people from registering to vote at voter registration booths.

Mr. Lacroix says the election commission has had to postpone the deadline for registering voters for the fourth time, to allow people in the rural areas to register.

But he says, despite the obstacles three million voters in a population of more than eight million have registered.

The upcoming elections are the first since a bloody rebellion sent former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile in February 2004. Since then, violence and political instability have claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people.

The United Nations sent a stabilization force, currently numbering 7,600 peacekeepers, in June 2003. U.N. special envoy to Haiti Juan Gabriel Valdes recently warned illegal armed groups against disrupting the election process.

International observers say the elections are crucial for Haiti's transition to political stability and democratic rule of law. Thirty two candidates are running for president. Political campaigns are officially set to start by the end of this month.