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#4524: Caricom meets with Aristide on Haiti elections (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Trenton Daniel

     PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, July 6 (Reuters) - Just days ahead of runoff
elections in Haiti, the Caribbean organisation Caricom on Thursday sought
to help resolve a dispute over results of the first round of voting in May
that has cast a shadow over the election process.
     Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is still struggling to
establish democratic institutions after decades of dictatorships and
military rule.
     The second round vote in parliamentary and municipal elections
scheduled for Sunday is being held amid complaints from at home and abroad
over the calculation of the results from the May 21 vote that gave former
president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's ruling Lavalas Family party a strong
     John Compton, a Caricom envoy, said Thursday he had been sent to Haiti
to convey Caricom's "continuing concern over the methodology in calculating
the (election) results" to Aristide.
     "In order to satisfy the international community, we told the CEP to
look at their (counting) method and the method used by the international
community, and asked them to reexamine the votes," said Compton, a former
prime minister of St Lucia.
     The Organisation of American States (OAS), which observed the May
vote, and other foreign and local critics, have said Haiti's election body
calculated the May results in a way that gave Lavalas more outright
victories in Senate and lower house seats than it was due.  Candidates
needed a simple majority to win in the first round
     Lavalas was seen as likely to win the elections after the second
round, but not by such a wide margin.
     Despite pressure from the OAS, the United Nations, and local
opposition parties to retally the vote, the Provisional Electoral Council
(CEP) has stuck with its version though three out of nine of the CEP
members refused to approve the results, including CEP president Leon Manus
who fled abroad last month saying he felt his life was threatened.
     The OAS has indicated it may not monitor the runoff election if the
CEP does not recalculate the vote.
     Such a brushoff would seriously undermine the legitimacy of the vote
in Haiti.
     OAS secretary-general Cesar Gaviria returned to Washington on
Wednesday after attending a Caricom conference in St Vincent at which Haiti
was discussed, and an OAS decision on observing the runoff was expected
     Aristide, Haiti's first freely elected president, is widely expected
to run for and win the presidency later this year.
     A U.S.-led invasion force in 1994 restored Aristide after a military
coup removed him from office in 1991. He was barred from running again for
the presidency in 1995 and succeeded by his protege and ally Rene Preval.
     After returning from the Caricom conference in St Vincent on
Wednesday, Preval said that the election results from the first round were
final and asked the Haitian people to vote in the runoff.
     The election aims 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.
     Based on the CEP count, Lavalas won 16 Senate seats and an independent
candidate won one seat. Results for the other two seats have not yet been
     Lavalas also won 26 seats in the 83-member chamber of Deputies, with
the remaining seats to be decided in the runoff. The ruling party also
swept most of the mayoral and local posts at stake.
     Haiti's government has been paralysed 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.