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#4518: Defiant Haiti going ahead with runoff (fwd)


Published Thursday, July 6, 2000, in the Miami Herald 
 Defiant Haiti going ahead with runoff
 `Flawed results' of first round put foreign aid at risk, U.S. says

 Defying foreign pressure and a boycott by opposition parties, Haiti is
plunging ahead with a runoff election Sunday that a U.S. official says
will put in doubt international recognition of the resulting new
Parliament and presidential elections scheduled later this year. Peter
Romero, U.S. acting assistant secretary of state, told a group of
 Haitian-American professionals at a meeting in Washington that ``the
insistence of the government of Haiti in accepting the flawed results .
. . of the vote puts at severe risk the prospect that the Parliament
will be recognized by the international community.'' At issue is the
method used by the country's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP)
 in calculating the winners of 19 Senate seats in first round May 21
voting; a method that has brought widespread foreign and domestic
criticism. Despite the outcry, Haitian President Rene Preval says the
runoff election will go ahead. The controversial count gave 18 of the 19
senate seats at stake to candidates of former President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide's Lavalas Family party without a runoff. The 19th seat went to
a pro-Aristide independent, also without a runoff. In the unpublicized
but on the record remarks Friday, Romero told the Haitian-American group
that acceptance of the recent election ``also puts at severe risk the
prospect that the [Haitian] presidential elections scheduled for
 November of this year will be viewed as free and fair by the U.S. and
by the international community.''  Aristide is expected to run and win
the presidential election, succeeding Preval, his protégé and ally, on
Feb. 7, 2001. The constitution barred Aristide from succeeding himself
when his term expired in 1995. The electoral law calls for a
parliamentary candidate to win 50 percent plus one of all the votes cast
for a position to win without a runoff, but the CEP tally counted
 only the Senate votes cast for the top four candidates -- not all votes
-- in each of Haiti's nine departments in determining first round
winners. If the votes had been calculated by counting all the votes, at
least seven Senate seats would have required a runoff election,
according to various monitoring organizations, including an Electoral
Observation Mission from the Organization of American States. ``The
votes of hundreds of thousands of Haitian citizens throughout the
country were simply cast aside by electoral officials as meaningless,''
Romero said. ``Haiti's people . . . have struggled long and hard to
achieve the right to vote. After that struggle, and their expressed
determination to exercise that right, for these votes to be simply cast
aside as meaningless is unconscionable.'' As a result, Sunday's vote is
only to determine the remaining seats in the 83-member lower chamber of
Parliament. Lavalas Family candidates already have officially won at
least 26 seats without a runoff, virtually assuring the party of
 control of both houses of the new Parliament. With an opposition party
boycott, minimal campaigning and little enthusiasm, analysts are
predicting a 5-to-10 percent turnout for Sunday's vote, compared to
 the 50-to-60 percent turnout on May 21. Haiti has been without a
Parliament since January last year, when Preval declared its term at an
end. A new Parliament is considered essential to resume the flow of
international assistance to jump start Haiti's moribund economy.
 But, noted Romero, ``all future allocations of multilateral and
bilateral assistance to the government of Haiti, including the $500
million of multilateral aid already on hold for want of a legitimate
Parliament, will be severely jeopardized.'' The Organization of American
States, which had about 200 observers monitoring the May 21 vote, has
yet to say whether it will even monitor Sunday's voting. Hannah Taylor,
spokesperson for the OAS observer mission in Haiti, said the
 monitoring decision will be made by César Gaviria, the OAS
secretary-general, who was returning to Washington on Wednesday after
attending a Caribbean Community summit in St. Vincent at which Haiti was
on the agenda.

 The OAS decision is expected today. 

 The country's National Observation Council, an umbrella group of civic
and human rights organizations that monitored the May 21 election,
already has said it will not be out on Sunday. However, a small number
of individual groups that make up the council will be monitoring the