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#4945: Extract From the Haiti Support Group's Haiti Briefing - August (fwd)

From: Charles Arthur <charlesarthur@hotmail.com>

Extract from Haiti Briefing, August 2000, Number 39. The bi-monthly 
publication of the Haiti Support Group.

Election 2000 - It's a Family affair

Haiti Briefing editor, Charles Arthur, who was an international
election monitor in Haiti in May, analyses the Lavalas Family victory.

Haiti's voters confounded all expectations by turning out in force for the 
May 21st general elections. As was the case in 1990, analysts who predicted 
a low turnout were left with egg on their faces as nearly two-thirds of the 
four million registered voters cast their votes. And, just as ten years ago, 
it appears that the popularity of Jean-Bertrand Aristide was one of the main 
reasons for the voters' enthusiasm.

Despite the 1991-94 military coup, the lame-duck final year of his 
Presidency, and four years out of the limelight, it seems that a
good many Haitians still believe in Aristide, and in the Lavalas movement 
for political change with which he is strongly associated. The Aristide 
'effect' contributed massively to the Lavalas Family victory, but there were 
other reasons too. Clearly, Aristide and his party had successfully 
established an organisational structure and a network of support across the 

The opposition parties

The votes for the Lavalas Family can also be seen as a rejection of the 
opposition parties, which had done little to inspire any confidence or 
respect in recent years. In particular, the electorate deserted the 
Struggling People's Organisation (OPL) in spectacular fashion. The OPL had 
been the main winner in the last general elections in 1995, and, as a 
result, had enjoyed a majority in the Parliament, and lead the government in 
1996/97. For this reason, most of its former supporters negatively 
associated it with four years of mis-government, and held it responsible for 
blocking the work of the Parliament since mid-1997.

The much-hyped Espace de Concertation coalition enjoyed the attentions of 
the international media, and the financial support of U.S and French backers 
in the election run-up, but, come the day, foreign friends were not enough 
to persuade any significant numbers of voters that this group was anything 
other than a bunch of visionless opportunists.

The only opposition group to come out of the election with any
credit was the new Mochrena party - a creation of the increasingly prominent 
right-wing Protestant evangelical churches in Haiti. Unlike the other 
opposition parties, which are vehicles for individual's political 
aspirations or intellectual talking shops, and as a result are detached from 
the ordinary people, Mochrena does seem to enjoy extensive and genuine 

Violence and fraud

Again confounding the pundits, the elections passed off with little of the 
predicted violence. Most polling stations were orderly, and
voters could cast their votes without any obvious sign of intimidation. 
There were, though, enough anecdotal reports of incidents after the polling 
stations closed to suggest that Lavalas Family party members did take part 
in fraudulent practices, such as discarding opposition ballot papers and 
altering the return forms, and that these acts did inflate the size of their 
party's victory. The arrests of numerous opposition party members by the 
police in the days after the election also indicated that parts of the 
National Police
force are indeed working on behalf of the Aristide party.

Although these incidents should not diminish the fact that the
majority of voters backed the Lavalas Family, the apparent determination of 
the party to win as many seats as possible, by fair means or foul, does 
raise some worrying concerns. A little over a year ago, Jean-Bertrand 
Aristide, when speaking to the editor of Haiti Briefing, confirmed that 
there were many bad elements, such as criminals, including drug-dealers, and 
even Duvalierists, who had climbed aboard the Lavalas Family bandwagon. 
Aristide said he was not
unduly worried because he had no doubt that, come the elections,
the savvy and sophisticated electorate would reject any unsavoury
characters who stood on a Lavalas Family ticket. In the context of the May 
21st Lavalas landslide, one is bound to ask just want type of people ended 
up being elected.

What is the Lavalas Family ?

Michele Montas of Radio Haiti Inter told Haiti Briefing she was
worried that the extent of the Lavalas Family triumph would mean "that we 
have a number of people in Parliament who I would not want to entrust to 
make laws." She added, "Some people who ride with the Lavalas Family are 
really rotten to the core." Montas echoed the fears of many supporters of 
genuine, participatory democracy in Haiti who believe that Aristide has 
compromised with array of interest groups, some of which are opponents of a 
far-reaching economic and political transformation. For example, Reginald 
Boulos, a long-time recipient
of USAID development funding, and co-owner of the right wing Radio Vision 
2000, has often been invited to and has attended Lavalas Family

One notable feature of the election was the number of former Haitian Army 
members standing for the Lavalas Family. According to the CEP's
official results, three former officers were elected Lavalas Family
Sentors, and Marie-Yves Pouponneau Duperval, the wife of a former Haitian 
Army chief of staff, was the party's victorious candidate for Mayor in the 
capital, Port-au-Prince. Apologists will say that none of them were leaders 
of the 1991 coup, and suggest that the inclusion of these people in 
important Lavalas Family positions is a form of pay-back negotiated by 
Aristide, dating from 1995 when he disbanded the Haitian Army. In any case, 
after what happened in 1991, perhaps Aristide is wise to reach out to a 
broader constituency. Others, though, wonder how, with friends like this, 
the Lavalas Family can really be a party that represents the rural and urban 

Patrick Elie, Minister of the Interior under Aristide in 1991,
told Haiti Briefing he agreed that there were all sorts of tendencies
within the Lavalas Family - some progressive, some reactionary. For this 
reason, he believes that fears about a lack of an opposition are unfounded 
because in the near future the Lavalas Family party itself will split apart.
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