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#4597: A one-horse race (fwd)

From: Rosann Clements <rosann@onemain.com>

>From Rosann <rosann@onemain.com>
Thursday, July 13, 2000
A one-horse race
Flawed elections in Haiti evoke a world-wide storm of protest
There were no poll watchers. There were no opposition parties. There was no
opposition candidate. And no opposition voters could be found.
The only voices audible belonged to Haiti's ruling Lavalas Family: local
election officials, party workers and other loyalists of former President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide who proclaimed the one-time Roman Catholic priest's
party a heavenly spiritand its victories a message that made God
smile.That's how Haiti held its second and final round of national elections
on Sunday ending an attempt at democracy that the US State Department last
week called incomplete and inadequatebefore it even began.
Shrugging off harsh criticism from Washington, the United Nations, France
and Canada - along with formal boycotts by all opposition parties and
international poll watchers, who concluded that the May 21 first round was
flawed, unfair and even illegal - the government defiantly pushed through
the last phase of a vote that is likely to render this Caribbean nation a
virtual one-party state.
Official results from Sunday's runoff for just over half the 83 seats in the
Chamber of Deputies, the legislature's lower house, will not be known for
about a week. Turnout was vastly lower than the 55 percent who voted in May.
But most analysts said the final outcome of the long-delayed two-step
balloting - which cost American taxpayers 23 million dollars to stage on top
of a 2.3 billion dollars, US-led military intervention to restore democracy
in Haiti - was a foregone conclusion.
Even before Sunday's vote, Aristide's party had won an overwhelming majority
of the nation's Senate seats and municipal governments after a campaign
marked by killings and intimidation and a first-round ballot count that the
nation's chief election official said violated Haitian electoral law.
So contentious was that counting method - and so determined was the
government of Aristide's handpicked successor, President Rene Preval, to use
it - that former Election Commission President Leon Manus not only resigned
but fled the country in fear for his life.
At the top governmental level, unequivocal messages were transmitted to me
on the consequences that would follow if I refused to publish the false
final results,Manus declared in a statement after arriving on US soil last
This situation left me no other choice but to temporarily leave the country
to avoid the worst and restrain the storm.But a storm of protest did ensue,
from Washington and other key capitals that will determine whether Haiti's
newly elected government should receive more than 500 million dollars in
desperately needed international aid. The grants and loans were frozen when
Preval dissolved parliament and began ruling by decree 18 months ago.
The Organization of American States, which was authorised to monitor the
elections, announced its boycott of Round 2 on Friday.
So did all the key opposition parties. And also last week, senior US State
Department officials strongly hinted that Haiti could well be denied the
future financial assistance if the first-round votes are not recounted, a
prospect that Preval himself has ruled out.
Beyond the international largesse at stake for Aristide, who is widely
expected to run and win a presidential election later this year, there is
his image as a populist democrat. He was Haiti's first freely elected
president, overthrown in a 1991 military coup and returned to office by the
US military in 1994.
At the front lines of Sunday's vote, though, none of Aristide's party
faithful seemed to care what anyone outside Haiti was thinking.
I believe Haiti is its own country. We have our own culture, our own way of
doing things,said Frantz Saurel Douze, the supervisor of a hillside polling
booth of wood and straw overlooking the town centre.
Douze, who is also the first cousin of the boycotting opposition candidate
for deputy from Cornillon, added: I think the Lavalas Party has a heavenly
spirit, and even though Haitian people are illiterate, they're not stupid.
...Were Haitians. Haitians can solve their own problems.
Mark Fineman
Los Angeles Times