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#4555: Haiti elections go ahead (fwd)


Sunday, 9 July, 2000, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK 
 Haiti elections go ahead By Latin America correspondent Peter Greste 

Haiti is pressing ahead with Sunday's second round of congressional and
local elections despite widespread international criticism of the way
the first round was counted. International observers have pulled out in
 protest and the opposition has called for a boycott of the elections,
which could hardly be more important for Haiti. If they work, they will
restore the first functioning national government in three years      
and free up $500m in foreign aid that was frozen after President Rene
Preval sacked both the Congress and the Senate last year. But if the
elections fail, Haiti could be plunged back into the political anarchy
and chaos that  has plagued the country for much of the past          

 Vote 'flaws' 

 Things looked promising enough after the first round of voting last
month. Turnout was unexpectedly high and most observers said       
there was very little evidence of fraud. But it was in the count      
that things started to go wrong. The president of the electoral council
fled the country rather than put his name to the official results for  
the Senate, which handed 16 of the 19 vacant seats to Family          
Lavalas, the party of the former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. 

The Organisation of American States (OAS) declared that the figures were
simply wrong and withdrew its observer mission in protest - and the UN,
the US, Canada and France have all condemned the process as deeply

 Lavalas support 

In the 83-member Chamber of Deputies, the official figures gave Lavalas
26 seats, with another 46 to be decided in the second round. The
remainder are from a district that held its vote later than the rest of
the country and they are still being counted. But most observers also
say Lavalas is the only party with widespread support - thanks largely
to Mr Aristide's own popularity - and they are expected to win the
majority of seats still to be decided.  Haiti is almost certain to get
some sort of elected administration after this vote, but it is still not
clear how well it will be able to function, or if it will get the
international recognition the country desperately needs.