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#4599: From The Miami Herald (fwd)

From: Charles Arthur <charlesarthur@hotmail.com>

Published Tuesday, July 11, 2000, in the Miami Herald

Haiti's discouraging elections
Aristide's party could have won without cheating

Discouraging is the word that best describes the bogus second-round of 
voting in Haiti's parliamentary elections last Sunday. In rigging the 
outcome to benefit the ruling party, the country's leadership again is 
testing the forbearance of the international community that has tried time 
and again to provide humanitarian aid. Each attempt has been thwarted by 
governmental corruption or, more recently, the venal politics of 
former-and-future president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Yet it is the people of Haiti, this hemisphere's poorest nation, who suffer 
the consequences. For that reason, the international community -- including 
the Clinton administration and Congress -- should quell its anger and remain 

Hopes for this tortured country's first serious experience with
democracy seemed promising last May 21 during the initial election when 
exuberant crowds turned out to fill offices ranging from rural councils to 
the national Senate. Most observers were encouraged that
Haiti soon would have a functioning government capable of investing $500 
million in foreign aid that now sits idle.

But those hopes were dashed in recent weeks as the leaders of Haiti's 
largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas, headed by former President
Aristide, twisted the rules to benefit its candidates who faced run-off 

Where the country's independent electoral council had awarded the
party's candidates just 11 of the Senate's 19 contested seats, Fanmi
Lavalas declared victory in 16 and unilaterally canceled the runoffs. As a 
result, the Organization of American States electoral mission
correctly withheld recognition of Sunday's outcome. Now the OAS,the
United States and other democracies are urging President Rene Preval to 
nullify the tainted balloting and schedule a second round that
meets Haiti's own test for fairness. Mr. Preval should swallow his
pride and agree.

The paradox in this is that the ballot manipulation not only further
eroded the democratic credentials of Mr. Aristide, who likely will win
election to the presidency this fall, but it was unnecessary to secure
Fanmi Lavalas's vise grip on Haitian politics. Its party members will
control Parliament as well as most mayoralties and rural councils. How
heartening it would be had the party gained such power freely and

The dilemma now faced by the United States and others is whether they
should continue to try to help, even if Haiti refuses to clean up its
electoral mess.

Sadly, there may be no alternative but to accept the reality that in
Haiti a little bit of democracy is preferable to none at all.
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