The Bush administration, anticipating another delay in Haiti's elections, said Wednesday it is working with interested parties to try to assure they are held in a timely manner. Though there has been no formal announcement, Haitian officials say a delay in the voting now set for January 8 is all but certain.
Officials here seem resigned to another postponement of the Haitian presidential and legislative elections.
But they are working with Haitian leaders and other concerned governments to try to assure that any delay is relatively brief, so that momentum in the political process is not lost.
Haitian electoral officials began saying late last week that the elections, now scheduled for next Sunday, will have to be put off for a fourth time because of logistical problems, including delays in distributing voter cards and problems with the voter database.
The Bush administration has made no secret of its eagerness to see the elections go forward, in the interest of putting Haiti on a sounder political footing after nearly two years of turmoil.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack noted there had been no formal postponement notice from interim Haitian President Boniface Alexandre.
But Mr. McCormack acknowledged the difficulty of holding an election in what he termed a very challenging environment in Haiti.
He said the United States is working with Haiti's leaders and electoral commission and other parties including the Organization of American States, Canada, Brazil and France in an effort to keep the political process moving ahead
"We believe it is essential that elections move forward," he said. "We're going to work very closely with our partners, with the representatives of the Haitian people to see that there are good elections that the Haitian people can have confidence in. It's essential for Haiti, in order to be able to turn the page on what has been an unhappy chapter in Haiti's history."
A senior official who spoke to reporters here said the legitimate security and logistical problems associated with the elections have to be balanced with the need to maintain the momentum of the political process.
He said while the United States accepts the likelihood of another delay in the voting, which was originally set for November, it is not backing off from the underlying importance of having the election in a timely manner.
Winners of the election will replace the interim government installed after the ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the face of political turmoil in February of 2004.
Unrest has continued since then despite the presence of a 7,000-member U.N. peacekeeping force, with much of the violence attributed to supporters of Mr. Aristide, who lives in exile in South Africa.
The United States has made high-level efforts to support the Haitian electoral process. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the Caribbean state in late September and the State Department's third-ranking official, Undersecretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, was there only two weeks ago.