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#4357: Haiti elections official says vote count was wrong (fwd)


Published Friday, June 23, 2000, in the Miami Herald 
 Haiti elections official says vote count was wrong BY DON BOHNING 

 In another blow to the credibility of Haiti's May 21 legislative
elections, the self-exiled president of the country's electoral council
says if vote totals had been properly calculated, only five
 Senate candidates -- and not 16 as announced -- of former President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide's political party would have been elected without
a runoff vote. The 16 senators would give Aristide's party control of
the Senate in the incoming parliament. Leon Manus, 78, president of
Haiti's nine-member Provisional Electoral Council which oversaw the
elections, also accused President Rene Preval's government of
 sabotaging the electoral process. Manus also charged that elements of
Haiti's National Police had aided in ``acts of fraud,'' including
ballot-box theft and falsification of electoral tally sheets.
 Manus' first public comments came in a statement released late
Wednesday, four days after he fled to the United States with
international community protection. He left Haiti out of fear for his
personal safety, following a meeting with Preval in which he refused to
sign off on the election results. Although he does not say it in his
statement, sources close to Manus said that during the meeting with
Preval, the president got on the telephone Aristide, who
 also ``encouraged'' Manus to sign off on the controversial results.
 Under Haitian law, candidates must win an absolute majority of all
votes cast for a position to avoid a second round of voting. But
electoral officials counted the votes of only the top four contenders
and not the others who ran and may have gotten a few votes. Observers
say those missing votes created an erroneous winning percentage count.
Manus said the tally gave 11 of 16 Senate seats to Aristide
 candidates who otherwise would have had to face a second round.
 Other elections monitors say, however, that Aristide's Lavalas Family
party might have won as many as eight seats if the votes had been
tabulated according to Haitian law. ``As soon as my decision was made
known to the executive branch,'' said Manus, ``the pressures began to be
exerted to turn the partial results into the final ones; this despite
all considerations of justice and respect for the electoral law.''
 After that, said Manus, ``unequivocal messages were transmitted to me
on the consequences that would occur if I refused to publish the
supposed final results.'' The controversial official results were
announced late Monday after sometimes violent and well-organized
demonstrations by pro-Aristide supporters demanding release of the
results. The unruly protests prompted Manus to fear for his safety.
 Only six of the nine election council's members signed off on the
results. In addition to Manus, who was in the United States, two other
members had resigned previously. Even before Manus' statement, the
council's Senate tabulations had come under fire by the Organization of
American States, United Nations, European Union and the United States.
 Though critical of the election process, U.S. officials have been
restrained in public comments, noting that a runoff election set for
Sunday has been postponed indefinitely and there is still hope that
international concerns over the Senate vote tabulations can be resolved.
They say any talk of sanctions -- unilateral or multilateral -- is
premature. Yves Gaudeul, the French ambassador in Haiti speaking for the
European Union, was less cautious.``In their present state, the results
cannot be considered valid,'' he told reporters in Haiti Thursday. ``It
is necessary for the Haitians to reconsider their position. The risk for
them is that assistance from the European Union could be