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4433: ANALYSIS-Haiti stumbles through national elections (fwd)


ANALYSIS-Haiti stumbles through national elections                     
Updated 3:30 PM ET June 28, 2000  By Trenton Daniel

     PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - In the month since Haiti finally held
delayed legislative and local elections, hopes raised by the poll in the
Caribbean nation have foundered amid allegations that the results were
not fairly counted.Now the country is waiting for a second, runoff vote
next month -- with no certainty that the international community, and
particularly the Organization of American States (OAS), will support the
process.President Rene Preval said Monday the government did not plan to
review the results and he tentatively scheduled a runoff, which had
originally been scheduled for June 25, for July 9. The first round vote
on May 21 was held after three postponements.The election, Haiti's first
national vote in more than three years, was considered a critical step
in the country's struggle to build a stable democracy after decades of
dictatorship and military rule, as well as in paving the way for release
of $500 million in foreign aid earmarked for the poorest country in the
Americas. One scenario now is that if Haiti refuses to cooperate on the
vote count, the OAS, which monitored the first round, could refuse to
monitor the second round."The future of the mission is to be decided by
the Secretary General of the OAS,Cesar Gaviria, who will make the
decision in consultation with member states of the OAS," said OAS
spokeswoman Hannah Taylor, in response to Preval's statement. "We're
awaiting his decision to see whether we will observe the July 9    
runoff." The run-up to the May election was marred by intimidation and
political violence in which more than 15 opposition candidates or party
officials were killed. But while the voting itself went fairly smoothly,
the issuance of results was snarled in allegations that the electoral
council mishandled the count, awarding the ruling party outright
victories where they were not due.  Delays in publishing official
results led to angry street protests by supporters of the ruling Fanmi
Lavalas, the political party of former President Jean-Bertrand    
Aristide, widely expected to run for and win the presidency later this
year.The head of the electoral council, Leon Manus, who refused to
publish the flawed results, fled the country after receiving death
threats. Two other council members stepped down after pressure from
opposition parties. The election aimed to fill 19 of the 27 seats in the
Senate and all 83 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house in
Haiti's two-chamber Parliament, as well as thousands of municipal posts
nationwide. In early June, the OAS said the Provisional Electoral
Council (CEP) had miscounted voting percentages, giving a landslide
victory for Lavalas.The CEP, a nine-member body designed to oversee the
elections, responded by saying that it had followed an internationally
accepted formula used in prior elections and would not recalculate
votes. Many observers among both the international community and local
media believe the only way forward now is for the CEP and the OAS to
reach an agreement. "There must be a consensus between the electoral
council and the OAS," said Roosevelt Benjamin, director of information
for Signal FM, an independent radio station in the capital. "While a
consensus is not impossible, it will be difficult."Meanwhile, the list
of those supporting the OAS has grown longer. The United Nations and
U.S. State Department, as well as local opposition parties and the
 private sector, have all stood behind the OAS, pressing the CEP to
respect election laws.Still, despite mounting pressure at home and
abroad, the CEP has not recalculated the vote, publishing the results
last week.Lavalas won 16 of the 19 Senate seats and most of the mayoral
seats,with an independent party member winning one Senate seat. Twenty
six of the 83 deputies were elected, all of them Lavalas, with the rest
going to a second round.Anna Marie Issa, general director of Signal FM,
worried about the outcome if the CEP does not back down on the vote
counting issue. "I think if the CEP doesn't recount the votes, the
international community could isolate the country further.The foreign
aid is needed.The economy is terrible, and the people are suffering,"she
said.Haiti's government has been paralyzed for most of the past three
years after parliamentary elections held in April 1997 were declared
fraudulent. Preval dissolved Parliament in January 1999 and has since
ruled by decree.A U.S.-led invasion force in 1994 restored Aristide,
Haiti's first freely elected president, to office after a military coup
forced him out in 1991.