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#4050: Haiti miscalculated vote percentages - observers (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Trenton Daniel

     PORT-AU-PRINCE, June 2 (Reuters) - Election officials incorrectly
calculated percentages of the vote received by candidates for Senate seats,
distorting results of Haiti's May 21 election, an international observer
mission said on Friday.
     Results of the election announced to date have indicated that the
Lavalas Family, the party of popular former President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide, is headed for a landslide victory.
     The Lavalas Family won outright 16 of the 19 Senate seats contested in
the election and 23 of the 83 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, according
to results announced this week by Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council
     "We reviewed the election results put out by the CEP and determined
that they were incorrect,"  said Steven Griner, deputy chief of the
Organisation of American States' electoral observation mission.
     More than 50 deputies' seats were headed for runoffs on June 25
because no candidate won an absolute majority of first-round votes.
Elections still have not been held in Grand Anse, one of Haiti's nine
departments (states), because of partisan bickering.
     The May 21 election, the first national vote in more than three years,
was considered a critical step in Haiti's struggle to build a stable
democracy after decades of dictatorship and military rule. The vote was
postponed four times because of the logistical problems involved in
registering 4 million voters in the Caribbean nation of 7.5 million people.
     The election aimed to fill 19 of the 27 seats in the Senate and all 83
seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house in Haiti's two-chamber
parliament, as well as thousands of municipal posts nationwide.
     International observers earlier declared the election, which was
plagued by chaos at polling stations, flawed but fair.
     But the OAS electoral observation mission, in a statement made public
on Friday, said the Provisional Electoral Council, a nine-member body
assigned by the Constitution to organise elections, used the wrong method
to figure out vote percentages for Senate candidates.
     The mission said it had analysed election data and found that the
percentage of the vote each candidate received was calculated on the totals
of a limited number of candidates who received the highest vote counts.
     Using only the sums of the highest vote-getters would skew the
percentages, giving the winners a higher percentage of the total than
deserved. To avoid a runoff, winners must receive an absolute majority of
the votes cast.
     "We think (the council) took the total votes of the first four
candidates," Griner said. "If no candidate receives an absolute majority,
they will have to go to a second runoff."
     The observer mission said it was not suggesting that fraud had been
committed or that the results would change, but it asked the council to
redo its calculations using the proper methods.
     Opposition parties had already questioned the results. The Espace de
Concertation party said vote results were fraudulent when local radio
announced them on Wednesday.
     "A senator cannot have an absolute majority in the first round," said
Claude Romain, a spokesman for Espace de Concertation, who along with four
other party members issued a communique on Friday asking council leaders to
     Frantz Faustin, a spokesman for the council, said it was studying the
OAS communique.
     Police broke up protests with tear gas in downtown Port-au-Prince on
Friday afternoon when poll workers who had not been paid broke windows in a
building housing election offices.
     Haiti's government has been paralysed for much of the last three years
after elections held in April 1997 were declared fraudulent. President Rene
Preval dissolved parliament in January 1999 and has been ruling by decree
     The Lavalas Family aimed to win a landslide in the May 21 vote to
control parliament in anticipation of the return to power of Aristide, who
is widely expected to run for and win the presidency later this year.
     Aristide, Haiti's first freely elected president, was ousted in a
military coup seven months after he took office in 1991 and was restored by
a U.S.-led invasion force in 1994.