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#4181: Haitian Department Votes in Delayed Election (fwd)


Sunday June 11 8:19 PM ET  Haitian Department Votes in Delayed Election
 By Trenton Daniel

 JEREMIE, Haiti (Reuters) - Haitian voters surged to the polls on
Sunday, turning out early and standing in long lines to cast ballots in
the Grand Anse department, the only one of Haiti's nine states that
failed to vote in May 21 elections. Some 200,000 of Haiti's four million
voters were eligible to cast votes in Grand Anse, where political
bickering forced postponement of elections when the rest of this
 Caribbean nation of 7.5 million voted three weeks ago. A department
official said the election -- in which Grand Anse voters were to elect
two senators, 11 members of the Chamber of Deputies and dozens of
municipal officials -- went smoothly and appeared to be fair.The first
voters turned out at 6 a.m. local time, lining up by the dozens at
polling stations for the chance to cast their ballots in Jeremie, a city
to the southwest of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. ``Everything's
been fine,'' said Pierre Berthol, 23, a high school student representing
Lavalas Family, the party of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. Lavalas Family appeared to be an overwhelming winner in other
parts of the country on May 21 and was expected to dominate the voting
in Grand Anse as well. In election results announced last week, Lavalas
Family won 16 of the 19 Senate seats contested in the May 21 election
and 10 of 83 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of
parliament. About 50 Chamber seats were headed for runoffs on June 25.
But international election observers subsequently questioned the methods
used by elections officials to calculate the winning percentages,
calling into question whether those who won seats outright had gained
the majority of votes needed to avoid runoffs. Lavalas Family aimed for
a strong showing in these elections in anticipation of the return of
Aristide to public life later this year. Haiti's first freely elected
president, Aristide was ousted in a military coup seven months
 after he took office in 1991 and was restored to power by a U.S.-led
invasion force in 1994. Still the most popular politician in this
impoverished nation, he is expected to run for and win the presidency
late this year. Haiti is struggling to establish a stable democracy
after decades of dictatorship and military rule. The May 21 vote was its
first national election in more than three years. It is expected to
restore a parliament dissolved by President Rene Preval in January 1999
 to end a political stalemate that held up millions of dollars in badly
needed international aid. Preval has ruled by decree since.
 The first round of elections were chaotic, with many polling stations
opening late and ballot boxes unattended before the vote count began.
International observers termed the vote flawed but fair. In Grand Anse
Sunday, some voters said Lavalas Family members had ordered them to vote
``11'' on their ballots -- the number representing Aristide's party.
``The way I see it, the people who are voting are voting 11 en masse.
They know 'the table,' they know exactly what to do,'' said Lavalas
Family member Pierre Aneyel, 23, a junior high school teacher, referring
to the symbol (a table) used by the part