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#4573: Haitians Vote in Elections (fwd)


Monday July 10 6:41 PM ET Haitians Vote in Elections
  By MICHAEL NORTON, Associated Press Writer 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has a
fragile hold on  Haiti's people, opposition leaders said  Monday, after
revelations that fewer than 10 percent of voters went to the polls in
run-off legislative elections.The opposition boycotted the elections,
and opposition leaders said the low turnout proved their call for a
boycott was heeded. Although results are not likely for days, Aristide
was expected to emerge more powerful from Sunday's second-round vote for
44 of 83 Chamber of Deputies seats.His Lavalas Family party seems poised
to control both houses of Parliament, and Aristide is strongly favored
to win the November presidential election. The elections - seen as
crucial to reviving a decade's tortuous experiment with democracy - left
a morass of recriminations, with international observers and opposition
parties claiming the campaign and count were fraught with irregularities
favoring Lavalas.U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed his
``regret'' Monday that Haitian authorities held the run-off vote
``without having resolvedthe outstanding issues related to the first
round.''  In that vote, candidates had to win a majority of 50 percent
plus one for a  first-round victory - but officials counted votes of
only the top four contenders in each race, yielding what observers say
were many false Lavalas victories. The U.S. State Department on Monday
called the second-round vote  incomplete and inappropriate and said it
was not too late for Haitian authorities to reverse the course the
elections had taken. No official participation figures were available
Sunday - but a key Lavalas official conceded it was low.`I'd estimate
the turnout at 5-10 percent,'' Lavalas spokesman and Senator-elect Yvon
Neptune told The Associated Press on Monday.``The low turnout ...
doesn't affect the validity of the balloting,'' Neptune insisted.       
Evans Paul, an opposition leader, said the low turnout showed that
Lavalas in reality ``has a very small minority'' of support.
Haiti has been plagued by flawed elections. The country's first
democratic vote in 1990 ended in chaos with no final count - but
  Aristide's landslide victory was not disputed. He was ousted in a coup
the following year and restored when the United States invaded in 1994  
to chase out a military regime. Haiti hasn't had a functioning
government since President Rene Preval, Aristide's hand-picked
successor, dissolved Parliament in January 1999 to resolve an 18-month
political deadlock. He has ruled by decree since. The count in these
latest elections gave Lavalas first-round victories with 16 of 19
contested seats in the 27-seat Senate and all 26 first-round wins in the
83-member Chamber of Deputies. Counting for the others has not been
completed or will be decided in another run-off.