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#4320: Haiti Faces Political Crisis (fwd)


Wednesday June 21 5:05 AM ET  Haiti Faces Political Crisis

 By MICHAEL NORTON, Associated Press Writer 

 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Haitians hoped last month's parliamentary
election would create an accepted government, freeing up foreign aid and
bringing calm to their streets. The results have instead brought another
political crisis, new rioting, and grave international concerns about
the troubled country's chances for democracy. The capital,
Port-au-Prince, was calm Tuesday, a day after official results gave
former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide control of the Senate. But the
country was bitterly divided between Aristide supporters and an
 increasingly desperate opposition, which claims the count was skewed to
create a one-party state. Hours after Aristide militants took to the
streets to demand the results, erecting flaming barricades and setting a
fire outside the U.S. Embassy, the Elections Council  said Aristide
candidates had won 16 of 17 Senate seats contested May 21, an absolute
majority in the 27-seat chamber. But three of the nine Elections Council
members refused to endorse the results - council president Leon Manus,
who fled to the United States last weekend, and two who resigned last
week. The council also postponed indefinitely a second round of
balloting Sunday in races where no candidate won a majority. The
opposition has called a boycott. Leaders of Aristide's Lavalas Family
party were adamant Tuesday that the results were valid. ``The real
friends of the Haitian people, of participative democracy, recognize
that the choice of the Haitian people must be respected,'' said
spokesman Yvon Neptune, one of the new senators. The United States,
United Nations and Organization of American States challenge the vote
count. Under Haitian law, candidates must win an absolute majority to
avoid a second round. But officials counted the votes of only the top
four contenders and not the others who ran, creating an erroneous
winning percentage that gave victory to at least eight Aristide
senators, observers say. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher
said the count should be completed ``in accordance with the
 precepts of the Haitian constitution and the electoral law.'' ``What is
disquieting is the obstinate refusal of some to admit the error,''
French Ambassador Yves Gaudeul, the top European Union representative
here, told Radio Signal. ``The law speaks of an absolute majority in
order to be elected to the Senate. In every country in the world that
means ... 50 percent of the votes plus one. There is no
 room for discussion.'' Gaudeul said it was ``premature'' to discuss the
future of $100 million in EU aid suspended pending a new
 Parliament. An additional $400 million from international financial
institutions is also frozen. A further holdup would be extremely bad
news for Haiti, whose 8 million people have lived in dire poverty under
 a string of dictators. Aristide was the first Haitian president to be
democratically elected, a decade ago. He was ousted in 1991 by the
 military, who ruled until 1994, when a U.S.-led invasion restored the
former Catholic priest to power. A coalition backed by Aristide won
disputed elections in 1995 - but that broke up when Aristide opposed
 economic reforms. Elections marred by massive irregularities in 1997
prompted Premier Rosny Smarthe to resign. Demanding new elections,
Parliament refused to approve any prime minister nominated by Aristide's
hand-picked successor, President Rene Preval. Preval disbanded the
legislature in 1999 and promised elections to return Haiti
 to democracy. But opposition parties have said these elections were
designed to install a one-party state under Aristide, who is
 favored to win November presidential elections. At least 15 people were
killed in political slayings before the balloting. Dozens of opposition
candidates and militants were arrested afterward. When results were
delayed, Aristide supporters rioted. On Monday, they jammed Haiti's
three biggest cities with flaming tire barricades, and smashed car
windows. The tires used in barricades were delivered by vehicles of the
state-owned telephone company, witnesses said. The company could not be
reached for comment. ``Violence and intimidation are the means the
Lavalas Family employs and indicate how it will govern if it has a
monopoly of power,'' said former Port-au-Prince Mayor Evans Paul of the
Space for Concord coalition, whose headquarters were burned down by
Aristide partisans. In the lower Chamber of Deputies, Aristide's party
won 26 seats in the 83-member body. Results from another 11 seats were
still being tabulated. For the remaining 46 seats, no one won a majority
so runoffs will be held.