Delayed polls in quake-hit Haiti set for November: official | world | Hindustan Times
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Delayed polls in quake-hit Haiti set for November: official

world Updated: Jun 30, 2010 21:51 IST

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Haiti's presidential and legislative elections, delayed by the massive January earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people, have been set for November 28, the presidency announced Wednesday.

The polls, originally scheduled for February 28 and March 3, were pushed back after the 7.0-magnitude quake flattened much of the capital Port-au-Prince.

The headquarters of the electoral council collapsed, killing many of the staff involved in planning the elections.

The UN mission in Haiti MINUSTAH, which was to oversee the polls, was also hit particularly hard, losing more than 100 staff.

As well as choosing a successor to Haitian President Rene Preval, the November polls will decide the fate of all 99 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and one third of the seats in the Senate.

The earthquake devastated the capital Port-au-Prince and left some 1.3 million people homeless, many of whom are still living in squalid tent cities at risk from hurricanes and floods.

In an April interview with AFP, President Rene Preval had pledged to hold elections this year despite the massive difficulties of organizing a successful poll, because it is crucial to "not leave a political vacuum" at the end of his mandate.

"The absence of legitimate authorities could pose problems of trust not only for the international community but also for investors," he said. Preval, who also served as president from 1996 to 2001, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third mandate. His current term expires in February 2011.

The Caribbean nation - the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere - has had a long history of dictatorship followed by years of political turmoil and civil unrest.

In 2004, some 1,000 US Marines followed by thousands of UN peacekeepers brought order to Haiti after a bloody rebellion against president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's rule. A provisional government was then installed.

Quake survivors say poor governance, corruption and shoddy construction magnified a disaster that was hundreds of times less powerful than the 8.8-magnitude February 27 quake in Chile, but far more deadly and devastating.

Haiti's legislature building was severely damaged in the quake, and the body is currently meeting in temporary quarters.