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#5131: About 1000 Haitians protest elections results in Gonaives (fwd)
Posted at 4:28 p.m. EDT Wednesday, September 20, 2000
About 1,000 Haitians protest elections results in Gonaives
By MICHAEL NORTON Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- (AP) -- In the second show of opposition to
the government this week, about 1,000 people rallied Wednesday in
Gonaives, Haiti's fourth largest city, calling for the nullification of
recent elections and the resignation of the government. Waving placards
with ``We want a new Haiti!'' and ``Peace and a real change for
the Haitian people!'' and ``Organize general elections!'' written on
them, the protesters overflowed the Manasse soccer field in Gonaives in
a prayer-meeting style political rally that ended peacefully under heavy
police guard. ``More and more people are coming out of their shell, to
say they are fed up with a government that has cheated them out of their
right to vote,'' said Ernst Colon, spokesman for the Christian Movement
for a New Haiti party, which organized the rally in the town of 125,000
people located 70 miles north of the capital.On Monday, about 5,000
opposition militants demonstrated against the government in Hinche, the
capital of Haiti's Central Plateau district. It was the largest
anti-government demonstration since controversial May, June, and July
elections that gave the Lavalas Family party of former President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide an overwhelming majority of the parliament and
local governments. Both demonstrations were endorsed by Convergence, an
alliance of 17 opposition parties of which Colon's party is a member.
The opposition accuses President Rene Preval's government of rigging the
elections in favor of the Lavalas Family party of his Preval's mentor
Aristide. Preval's critics have also charged Lavalas with being behind
street violence aimed at opposition leaders.
Elections for eight senate seats and the presidency will be on Nov. 26.
Opposition parties have said they will boycott the races, and Aristide
is the only well-known politician to have declared his candidacy.
Meanwhile, as voter disenchantment grows, more than 65 percent of the
400 people polled in a survey published Sept. 11 by the daily Le
Nouvelliste said they would not vote if the crisis persists. The survey
has a margin of error of 5 to 7 percentage points.
Barely 200 of Aristide's grass-roots partisans turned out to launch his
presidential campaign at a Sept. 11 rally in the capital, demonstrating
the weakening of his once unquestionable influence, Colon said.
An Organization of American States mission will arrive in Haiti on
Friday for the second attempt in a month to help opposition and
government iron out their differences. Aristide's party won more than 80
percent of the legislature, and the OAS has expressed doubts about the
way candidates were selected for the second round of the elections.
Haiti's biggest donors, the European Union and the United States, have
threatened to withhold funds, or channel them through non-governmental
agencies if Haiti does not revise the results.