PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haitian President Rene Preval set Nov. 28 as the date voters will choose his successor as leader of the earthquake-shattered Caribbean nation.
The much-anticipated decree setting the election date was signed Tuesday beside Port-au-Prince's collapsed national palace, bearing the signatures of the president, prime minister and Cabinet. Voters will also choose legislators for Haiti's now mostly vacant parliament.
The date itself is not a surprise: Haiti's current constitution mandates elections be held the last Sunday of November in the fifth year of the president's term.
But opponents had expressed concern that Preval was dragging his feet on holding the election, especially after he signed a decree extending his term by three months if voting was not held on time. That decision was met with protests. He responded by pledging to leave office by Feb. 7, 2011.
Organizing the elections will be no simple task.
The electoral council's headquarters were destroyed and records lost in the Jan. 12 quake, while millions of voters were either killed, made homeless or displaced. Before the quake Preval's opponents accused him of manipulating the council to benefit his allies and threatened to disrupt elections if the current officials are not replaced.
The Organization of American States, United Nations and others have pledged support for setting up the elections. Officials cite the need for national organization in the rebuilding and continuing efforts to strengthen democratic institutions in a country where government overthrows have been far more common than free elections.
Haiti's constitution does not permit Preval to run again.