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Haiti schedules legislative run off elections April 21

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI (AP) MARCH 16: A legislative run-off needed to restore popularly elected government to Haiti will take place April 21, the interim administration announced yesterday. Michel Brunache, chief of Cabinet for interim President Boniface Alexandre, told The Associated Press he was confident preparations for the election would be completed in time.

Scores of candidates seeking 129 legislative seats will participate in the run-off, which is considered the final step in often-delayed elections called to replace former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who fled into exile amid a bloody revolt in February 2004.

Officials originally scheduled the legislative run-off for March 19 but later postponed it, citing large-scale street protests in the wake of February 7 elections won by Rene Preval, a former president.

The delay also forced the postponement of Preval's inauguration because he technically cannot take power without a sitting parliament. A new inauguration date hasn't been set.

Haiti's electoral council expects results of the run-off to be available April 28, paving the way for the new government to take power, the electoral council said in a statement carried on local radio.

Preval, who received four times as many votes as his nearest rival, was declared the victor after delays in the vote count angered his supporters, who took to streets and accused election officials of trying to manipulate the results.

Preval's Lespwa Party is considered a front-runner in the legislative race, although observers say he will likely need to forge a coalition government because of the large number of political parties contesting the runoff.

Preval, who served as president from 1996 to 2001, has pledged to restore security, create jobs and attract foreign investment in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

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