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4262: Broken Rules in Haiti (fwd)


Broken Rules in Haiti Saturday, June 17, 2000; Page A18 
WASHINGTON POST___June 17 2000

 BACK IN 1994, the Clinton administration dispatched 24,000 troops     
to Haiti to overturn a military coup and reinstall the elected
president,Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Since then, the U.S. government has
spent hundreds of millions of dollars and enormous diplomatic energy
trying to promote prosperity and democracy, largely to ensure against a
resumption of massive refugee flows to Florida. But things are not going
well. There was a brief encouraging moment on May 21, when Haitians
flocked peacefully to the polls to vote for a new parliament. Since
then, however, evidence of electoral  misconduct has been mounting--and
much of the fault appears to lie with backers of Mr. Aristide.Haiti's
election was supposed to have taken place in November 1998 but was
repeatedly delayed by President Rene Preval, who works closely with Mr.
Aristide and who has ruled Haiti by decree since dissolving parliament
in January 1999. The weeks leading up to the vote were marred by
violence, most of it committed by supporters of Mr. Aristide's Lavalas
Family Party against opposition targets. More than a dozen people were
killed. Since the vote, the Haitian police, who are heavily influenced
by Mr. Aristide's party, have arrested 37  opposition candidates and
activists on spurious charges; only 11 have been released. The
Organization of American States has determined, moreover, that election
authorities used an unlawful method of  ballot-counting. This improper
count gave Mr. Aristide's party 16 of 17 contested Senate
seats--assuring Mr. Aristide a pliant parliament if,as expected, he wins
the presidency himself later this year. A proper count would have forced
eight of these purported winners into runoff elections against
opposition candidates. The United States supports the OAS
assessment--though U.S. statements on Haiti have been more muted than
its condemnations of Peru's recent electoral chicanery. United Nations
Secretary General Kofi Annan has proclaimed himself "troubled by the
continuing irregularities" and has reiterated his "expectation" that
Haiti adhere to its own law in calculating the final results. The
Haitian government has so far brushed aside such criticism. Yesterday,
another pro-Lavalas crowd occupied downtown Port-au-Prince, throwing
rocks and burning tires--and demanding that the apparently unlawful vote
count be officially ratified. With the runoff elections scheduled for
June 25,time is running out on what little hope remains for the
consolidation of  genuine democracy in Haiti.