Originally: Haiti election plans threatened by lack of cash
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) – Haiti’s plans to hold high-tech and costly elections in 2005 are at risk unless international donors rapidly provide promised funds, a senior election official said Tuesday.
Five months after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in an armed revolt, Haiti’s electoral council needs $100 million to organize what will be the most expensive ballot in Haiti’s 200 years of independence, council member Rosemond Pradel said.
“But so far we have not received a penny,” Pradel, secretary general of the nine-member body, told Reuters.
The Caribbean country’s return to democracy after the ousting of Aristide and appointment oting,
and the electoral council faces the further challenge of trying to organize high-tech voting with digitized identity cards and electronic voting machines in a country that barely has electricity.
“To put the electronic system in place will require 12 months,” said Pradel, calling on donor nations to speed up the release of funds to help organize the ballot.
The United States, European Union and other donors including multilateral lending agencies like the World Bank agreed at a donors conference last month to pour more than $1 billion into Haiti over the next two years.
The aid is regarded as crucial if the poorest country in the Americas is to pull out of economic stagnation and political crisis that culminated in the bloody rebellion against Aristide, a former priest who championed the poor but was deeply mistrusted by Haiti’s rich and by Washington.
Aristide, who became Haiti’s first freely elected leader when he initially took office in 1991, is in exile in South Africa after fleeing Haiti on Feb. 29. A Brazilian-led U.N. peacekeeping force is on the ground in Haiti.
Aristide’s Lavalas Family party has refused to participate in the electoral council organizing the 2005 election.
That has undermined confidence in the panel, and especially in the government’s plans for a computerized voting system that some analysts fear could be manipulated to prevent Aristide’s supporters among the poor majority from determining the outcome.
Council chairman Roselaure Julien recently accused her colleagues of a “plot to hijack the electoral process.”
Julien denounced a “fierce power struggle” among those who helped oust Aristide and said she had come under pressure to resign because she had resisted attempts to influence her.
“I won’t kneel down. I say there should be a free and fair election, not selection, nomination or plebiscite,” Julien told Radio Solidarity last week.
Pradel told Reuters panel members had no intention of organizing fraudulent elections. “We have had enough of that.
We want to organize free and fair elections,” he said.