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#4615: U.S. joins Europe in questioning Haiti elections (fwd)


U.S. joins Europe in questioning Haiti elections 
Haitian government defends vote method

July 13, 2000 Web posted at: 11:19 p.m. EDT (0319 GMT)WASHINGTON -- An
international mission that monitored the recent electoral  process in
Haiti said Thursday that runoff elections conducted on Sunday were
"fundamentally flawed" because they failed to include races for 10
Senate seats.  As a result, the United States warned Haiti Thursday that
it may join the European Union in a review of international aid if the
Haitian government does not quickly correct the alleged electoral flaws.
The dispute could hold up badly needed foreign aid in the hemisphere's
poorest country, which is struggling to build democratic institutions
after decades of dictatorship. Haiti held parliamentary and municipal
elections May 21, and international  observers said tainted results in
Senate races had favored ex-president Jean Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas
party. The Organization of American States last week suspended its
observer mission in Haiti ahead of the second round of voting, which saw
a very low turnout. But the OAS, to which all the hemisphere's nations
except Cuba belong, took no action and will look to the Caribbean
countries organization, Caricom, to resolve the issue. Caribbean
nations, which say the situation does not warrant calling into question
the whole election, said they will work with Haiti to resolve the
problem.  They said the process of strengthening democracy in their
poverty-stricken neighbor must be seen in the context of long-term
social and development. 

'Time is running out ...' 

However, Thomas Shannon, the U.S. delegate at an OAS meeting in
Washington on Haiti, said, "Time is running out for the Haitian
authorities to find a solution and reaffirm their commitment to a
democratic outcome." Shannon said, "We and many in the international
community would find it difficult to work with a parliament in Haiti
that had been elected in a tainted          process." 

The European Union warned in a statement on Wednesday that it would be
obliged to review its aid policy toward Haiti if doubts about the
fairness of the election were not cleared up. But Haitian Foreign
Minister Fritz Longchamps defended the election result at the       
meeting in Washington. He said the OAS had no mandate to impose its   
recommendations on Haiti, and he urged OAS states to understand his
country's economic plight."I don't know how an outside body can impose
certain things on a government," Longchamps said. "What Haiti needs is
political, social and economic stability.

Sanctions and threats won't bring this stability."  The OAS election
observers mission said in a report to the meeting that Haiti's
Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) had used a method of tallying votes
that favored the Lavalas party in 10 senate races, but the CEP refused
to hold runoffs. The OAS mission said the authorities had violated
Haiti's constitution and election law and the principle of one-man,
one-vote. In Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, Prime Minister Jacques
Edouard Alexis said Haiti's constitution gave the CEP sole authority
over elections, and its decision not to recalculate the votes would
stand. "If we are a democracy, there must be respect for institutions,
and the  government can't interfere and try to influence the electoral
council in any way whatsoever," Alexis said through his spokesman,
Asselin Charles. Longchamps said the electoral council "sought in good
faith a method that was closest to the spirit of the law." He added that
the Haitian government does not defend one method of tallying over

 Aristide expected to run again

Aristide Haiti's first freely elected president, stepped down in 1995
but is widely expected to run for the presidency later this year and
win. Aristide was overthrown in 1991 by a military coup that resulted in
a reign of   terror which ended when the United States sent 20,000
troops to restore him in 1994.