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28100: (news) Chamberlain: Haiti changes date again for runoff election (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Joseph Guyler Delva

     PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, March 11 (Reuters) - Haiti's electoral
authorities on Saturday brought forward slightly the date for runoff
elections to pick senators and legislators.
     Originally due to take place on March 19 and then rescheduled for
April 23, the second-round vote will now take place on April 21, a Friday,
ostensibly to allow officials the weekend to prepare for classes on Monday
the schools that will be used as voting centers.
     "We finally decided to organize the second round on April 21, which is
a Friday, for practical reasons," Max Mathurin, president of the
Provisional Electoral Council, told Reuters.
     Elections are usually held on Sundays in Haiti, the poorest and most
unstable country in the Americas.
     An exception was the presidential election on Feb. 7, the first
national ballot since former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in
February 2004 by an armed revolt and under international pressure to quit.
     Mathurin said the council decided to hold the runoff on a Friday to
give election workers the whole weekend to put desks, chairs and other
equipment back in place in time for schools to open on Monday.
     "When we have the election on Friday, at least they will have Saturday
and Sunday to starting cleaning and reorganizing," he said.
     None of the contenders in the races held alongside the presidential
election on Feb. 7 for 30 Senate seats and 99 seats in the lower house
appear to have won the majority -- 50 percent plus one vote -- needed for a
first-round victory.
     President-elect Rene Preval, a onetime Aristide ally and like him a
champion of the Caribbean nation's poor masses, was himself originally
awarded just under 50 percent of the votes after a week of ballot counting.
     But, fearing angry protests by his supporters and mindful of growing
allegations of vote fraud seemingly aimed at denying Preval a first-round
win, the electoral authorities decided to change the way they counted
ballots with no votes cast on them and thereby handed him a victory.
     Preval was originally supposed to take office on April 29, but his
inauguration is expected to be delayed because of the inability to hold the
second round of the legislative election on time. He could take office in
the first week of May.
     The party that holds a majority in parliament will pick a prime
minister and form a government.
     No party seems likely to obtain an outright majority but Preval has
been meeting other parties in hopes of building a governing coalition that
can bridge the deep divides in the country of 8.5 million, in particular
the deep distrust between the poor and the small, wealthy elite.