October 31, 2000

Haiti may postpone presidential vote

                  PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) -- Haiti likely will postpone presidential
                  elections set for November 26 but will still meet its constitutional deadline to
                  install a new leader in February, an elections spokesman said on Tuesday.

                  Samuel Louis-Jean, a spokesman for Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP),
                  said a revised calendar for the presidential elections in the troubled Caribbean
                  nation would be released on Friday.

                  "I don't think they will be held on November 26," he told Reuters. "It's not
                  important the elections are held on that date. What date is important, is February

                  President Rene Preval has said that, no matter what, he will leave office on
                  February 7, the date mandated by Haiti's constitution for the transfer of power.

                  The United States and European Union have vowed to withhold aid if the
                  impoverished nation of 7.5 million does not strengthen its democratic institutions
                  before the November vote.

                  A delay had been widely expected by Haiti's opposition parties, which called for a
                  boycott of the presidential election to protest alleged rigging of the May
                  parliamentary elections to benefit the ruling Lavalas Family party of former
                  President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

                  "They are talking about holding the election on December 17," said Ariel Henry, a
                  member of opposition party coalition Groupe de Convergence.

                  Conditions favor Aristade

                  Registration of new voters was supposed to begin on October 2 but has yet to
                  start. The electoral council finally published an official list of candidates on
                  Monday, three weeks late.

                  Seven presidential candidates are on the list -- Aristide and six virtual unknowns.

                  Five are independents and the sixth, Evans Nicolas, represents the little-known
                  Union for National Reconstruction party. Another, Protestant pastor Arnold
                  Dumas, ran for president in 1995 and drew less than 1 percent of the vote.

                  Two candidates, Paul Arthur Fleurival and Calixte Dorisca, threatened last week
                  to withdraw from the campaign, saying it was not being taken seriously. The
                  other presidential candidates are Jacques Philippe Dorce and Serge Sylvain.

                  The lack of a strong challenger, along with a boycott called by most of Haiti's
                  opposition parties, virtually guarantees a victory for Aristide, 47.

                  He was the Caribbean nation's first democratically elected president after decades
                  of dictatorship and political instability.

                  Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, was ousted in a military coup seven
                  months after taking office in 1991 and returned to power by a U.S.-led invasion
                  in 1994. He was constitutionally barred from running for consecutive terms, and
                  Preval, his protege, was elected in 1995.

                  Most opposition parties are boycotting the presidential election to protest Haiti's
                  May 21 parliamentary vote. They and international election observers said the
                  results were miscounted to give Lavalas seats that should have been decided in

                  The boycott and Haiti's continued use of the electoral council that oversaw the
                  May vote have caused growing concern in the international community.

                  In addition to choosing the next president, the November election aims to fill nine
                  senate seats.

                     Copyright 2000 Reuters.