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By Alfredo S. Lanier Tribune Staff Writer June 20, 2000 

 PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti -- The legitimacy of nationwide elections, whose
results finally were  made public late Monday after being withheld for 
nearly a month, continue to be called into question by Haitian and
international observers.The results show an overwhelming victory in   
municipal and legislative races by the ruling Lavalas Party, led by
former President Jean-Bertrand  Aristide. But their credibility may have
been dealt a fatal blow by the sudden departure over the weekend of the
president of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council.Leon Manus, 78, a
respected jurist, fled the country rather than endorse results that have
given Aristide's party a choke hold on the government. The May 21     
elections were considered crucial for restoring Haiti's battered economy
and political system and for  gaining international recognition.        
Manus went into hiding Friday. On Saturday he and his wife reportedly
drove across the border into Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, en route
to Miami. A spokesman at the State Department confirmed Monday that
Manus had been admitted to the U.S. and would be going to Boston to live
with his sister.Diplomatic sources in the capital said Manus' life had
 been threatened unless he endorsed what he considered a dubious Lavalas
landslide. Manus' refusal to endorse the results came on top of         
complaints by electoral observers from the Organization of American
States of irregularities in the counting of votes in the Senate races.
 "The questions by the OAS and now the flight of the president of the
electoral council leave these elections with no legitimacy whatsoever,"
said James Morrell, research director of the Center for International
Policy in Washington. "I can't see how the U.S. and the European Union 
are going to accept these results, as much as they  may want to,"
Morrell said."We have now left the area of electoral politics and      
entered into a national political crisis," said Micha Gaillard, a
candidate for mayor of Port-au-Prince  with the opposition party Espace
de Concertation. "Haitian political leaders of all parties need to sit
down and deal with this worsening situation, because if they don't,
there are bound to be serious repercussions in all areas." On Friday and
again Monday morning, followers of  Aristide took to the main arteries
of the capital and burned tires and threw rocks, shutting down most
vehicular traffic and government and business offices. The road to the
airport was shut down, and most international flights were
canceled.Among other locations, protesters again targeted the U.S.
Embassy in Port-au-Prince, burned an American flag and shouted slogans
against the OAS electoral observers and the U.S. government, which has 
supported the observers' criticisms. Impatient followers of Aristide,
who considered Lavalas the overwhelming winner in the elections, have
loudly protested unexplained delays in the formal confirmation of their
party's victory by the electoral council.The announcement of the results
Monday is expected to help the capital return to normal. A good part of
the reason behind the delays was the dispute between the OAS and the
electoral council over counting the votes for the 27-member Senate. Of
the 17 races in which votes have been counted,Lavalas claimed
first-round victories in 16 races; the OAS team gave them about seven.
Results released Monday confirmed Lavalas' estimates.Under Haitian law,
candidates must win a majority to avoid a second round of voting. But
officials countedthe votes of only the top four contenders and not the
others who ran and may have gotten a few votes.Those missing votes
created an erroneous winning percentage count, observers claim.Lavalas
agitators in downtown Port-au-Prince threatened "to burn the city down"
if the vote tallies were not made public by Monday evening.Election
officials also confirmed Monday that the monthlong delay in counting the
votes makes it impossible to hold runoff elections on Sunday as
scheduled. An election official said the second round most likely would
be held in mid-July.At a news conference Monday morning, Luciano
Pharaon, director of operations for the electoral council, brushed aside
the arguments and objections raised by the OAS. "The council is the only
legitimate authority on this matter," he said.Opposition leaders and
analysts such as Morrell questioned the logic of that statement, given
that it was Haiti that invited the 200-person OAS team of international
observers into the country in the first place.Pharaon also asserted that
Manus' stunning departure, and the resignation of two opposition figures
from the council last week,wouldn't affect the vote-counting or the
validity of the results. he legitimacy of the elections--particularly in
the eyes of the international community--is essential if Haiti is to
climb out of the political and economic hole it has been in for three
years. "If Haiti can't establish the legitimacy of the elections, the
same problems will continue to plague the country for the foreseeable
future," Morrell said.Feuds between President Rene Preval, a close
associate of Aristide, and the opposition in parliament have paralyzed
the national government for more than three years. Preval disbanded the
parliament about 18 months ago and has been ruling by decree since
then.An estimated $500 million in international loans and other aid has
been held up pending the resolution of the political crisis. Foreign
investment and tourism have dried up, plunging this wretchedly poor
country into a deeper economic crisis. And that crisis is pushing
desperate Haitians to flee to the neighboring Dominican Republic, other
Caribbean islands or the U.S. On Sunday, six Haitians and their driver
were shot and killed by Dominican border guards as they tried to enter
that country. Congressional Republicans,who don't much favor Aristide or
Lavalas, also have shut off approximately $26 million in American aid
over a trade dispute regarding rice imports.The Clinton administration
was hopeful that fair elections would be a way out of the
impasse.American aid paid for the photo identification cards used to
register voters.But several postponements of the elections by the Preval
government, pre-election violence that left 15 people dead, the dispute
with the OAS--and election-eve photos of some ballot boxes and ballots
strewn on the streets of the capital--have all but dashed those hopes.
"Even if the Clinton administration gave its blessing to this election,
it's doubtful that House and Senate Republicans would follow suit," said
Morrell.One of the most puzzling aspects of the electoral dispute is
that OAS observers and even some opposition figures agree that Aristide
remains popular, particularly among the poor, and that Lavalas would
have won most of the races in any event."Lavalas won most of the seats
in parliament, but not by the 40 percent margins they claim," said
Hannah Taylor, spokesman for the OAS team in Port-au-Prince."The ironic
part of these power plays by Lavalas is that they would have won fair
and square," said Morrell. "But they don't want to just win. They want
to obliterate the opposition."