The Miami Herald
March 11, 2000
Haiti vote suffers setback


 Haiti's long-delayed elections were in trouble again Friday after President Rene
 Preval challenged the authority of the country's electoral council to set the dates.

 In airport comments Thursday, before departing for Guadeloupe and a Caribbean
 summit with French President Jacques Chirac, Preval complained that he first
 heard about the new election dates via radio and said only he had the authority
 officially to announce them.

 The electoral council announced Wednesday that the first round of voting for
 parliamentary and municipal posts would be held April 9, with runoff elections
 May 21. Elections had been scheduled for March 21 and April 30, but
 organizational disarray forced their postponement.

 Preval accused the electoral council of not showing even ``minimal courtesy,'' by
 announcing the dates without consulting him. Other Haitian sources said,
 however, that he had met with the electoral council Saturday and was aware in
 advance of the dates announced Wednesday.

 Whatever the case, analysts in Washington and in Haiti said Friday that the
 chances of the vote being held on the dates announced by the electoral council
 had diminished considerably.

 Preval's comments reinforced opposition suspicion that he is working in tandem
 with former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is thought to prefer combined
 parliamentary and presidential elections later in the year.

 Aristide is generally viewed as the likely winner of the presidential election and
 probably would benefit from the coat-tail effect of combined elections, giving him a
 better chance at a parliamentary majority.

 Apart from the political considerations, however, there is considerable skepticism,
 both inside and outside Haiti, that credible elections can be organized by April 9,
 given the organizational and logistical problems.

                     Copyright 2000 Miami Herald