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#4712: Haiti sets Sunday run-off election in province (fwd)


WIRE:07/26/2000 18:22:00 ET
  Haiti sets Sunday run-off  election in province
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, July 26 (Reuters) - Haiti"s electoral council set
a runoff election for Sunday and  announced first-round winners for one 
of the Caribbean nation"s nine provinces, officials said on    
Wednesday. The Provisional Electoral  Council (CEP) decided the run-off
date for the Grand Anse department in a meeting on Tuesday with Prime
Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, and said first-round winners were    
split between the popular Lavalas Family party of former President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide and an opposition party. "Lavalas won both Senate
seats, and  Espace (de Concertation) won at the local level," CEP      
spokesman Frantz Faustin told Reuters. "There"s a balance of elected
officials." The runoff election will decide 14 Grand Anse seats in the
Chamber of Deputies, the lower house in Haiti"s bicameral parliament.
Candidates had to win an outright majority of first-round votes to avoid
a runoff. Voters in Grand Anse did not cast ballots with the rest of the
nation on May 21 because of logistic problems in organising the
election and also missed the runoff on July 9. The department held its
first-round election on June 11.The local and legislative elections,
meant to take Haiti toward a stable democracy after decades of          
dictatorship and military rule, instead sparked further political
controversy and threats of economic sanctions for the impoverished
nation. First-round results for the rest of the country were disputed by
international observers and opposition parties and the July 9 runoff 
was marred by low turnout and an opposition boycott. The Organisation of
American States refused to observe the runoff, saying first-round
results were not  fair. The first-round vote yielded a strong victory
for  Aristide"s Lavalas Family but international observers  said the CEP
miscalculated results for Senate seats,giving Lavalas more outright
victories than it deserved. Aristide is widely expected to retake
Haiti"s  presidency in November elections. The United States  warned
Haiti two weeks ago that it risked losing international aid if it did
not quickly correct the flaws. The Grand Anse vote also has been mired
in controversy. On Monday, the president of the department"s electoral
office, Benoit Guerrier,resigned, blaming the government and CEP for
rregularities. Last week Guerrier submitted vote results to the CEP,
showing a mayoral victory for opposition party Espace de Concertation.
But the CEP rejected the results and told Guerrier to recount the votes.
Guerrier also said the government took no concrete action to curb
violence in the outer province.On Sunday night arsonists burned down an
electoral office in Dame-Marie, a town 205 miles (330 km) west of the
capital, independent Radio Metropole  reported. Haiti"s government has
been paralysed for  most of the past three years after parliamentary
elections held in April 1997 were declared fraudulent. President Rene
Preval dissolved parliament in January 1999 and has ruled by decree
since. Preval took over the presidency in 1995 when Aristide left
office. Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, became Haiti"s first
freely elected president in 1991 but was  ousted in a military coup
later that year. He was restored to power by a U.S.-led invasion force
of 20,000 troops in 1994.