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US lawmaker criticizes Haiti election exclusions
By EVENS SANON and JONATHAN M. KATZ
Associated Press
2009-12-24 06:56 AM
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters is criticizing a decision by Haiti's electoral council to exclude more than a dozen political parties from next year's legislative elections.

In a letter sent Wednesday to President Rene Preval, she called on the president to ensure the provisional electoral council provides a complete, public explanation for the disqualifications and to reinstate unlawfully banned parties before parliamentary elections Feb. 28.

The California representative's letter, sent via the Haitian Embassy in Washington, lends outside support to political groups frustrated by Haiti's nine-member, presidentially appointed electoral council.

Opposition groups accuse the council of trying to help Preval's newly created Unity party win majorities in parliament so he can push through constitutional reforms and expand executive power. Some have threatened to disrupt voting if the council is not replaced.

"I am concerned that these exclusions would violate the right of Haitian citizens to vote in free and fair elections and that it would be a significant setback to Haiti's democratic development," Waters wrote.

Preval's press office said it was not aware of the letter as of Wednesday afternoon. The electoral council has not responded to the criticisms against it.

A U.S. State Department spokesman did not comment on the letter, but said the Obama administration is nearing completion of a review on its policy toward Haiti with results expected early next year.

The most prominent faction excluded from the vote is former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party, which has organized protests and discussed a possible boycott of the vote.

Waters provided prominent support for Aristide in the wake of his 2004 ouster to Africa aboard a U.S. plane, leading a delegation that returned him briefly to the Caribbean before his ultimate exile in South Africa.

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Associated Press Writers Evens Sanon reported this story from Haiti and Jonathan M. Katz from San Juan, Puerto Rico. AP writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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