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#5129: Haiti opens campaign for presidential election (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Trenton Daniel

     PORT-AU-PRINCE, Sept 20 (Reuters) - The campaign for Haiti's
presidency and nine senate seats began on Wednesday in an election expected
to see Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned to power.
     Political analysts expect the Nov. 26 election to return Aristide, a
former Roman Catholic priest who in 1991 took office as Haiti's first
freely elected president, to the presidency after a five-year absence.
     "I officially announce the opening of registration for candidates in
the Nov. 26 presidential and senatorial elections," said Ernst Mirville,
president of Haiti's electoral council, at a news conference to kick off
the campaign.
     Elections officials said voter registration would take place between
Oct. 6 and Oct. 30. President Rene Preval issued a separate statement
urging Haitians to vote.
     Haiti was forging ahead with the national vote for the presidency and
senate seats in the face of international disapproval of a tainted May 21
election that resulted in an overwhelming victory for Aristide's party
Lavalas Family.
     International observers said 10 senate seats were improperly awarded
to Lavalas Family candidates after first- round voting because elections
officials miscalculated the winning vote percentages. The seats should have
gone to second-round runoffs, the observers said.
     The international community and Haitian opposition parties criticised
the election and refused to participate in second-round balloting.
     Aristide, who was ousted in a military coup eight months after taking
the presidency in 1991 and then was restored by a U.S.-led invasion force
three years later, is expected to score an easy victory in the November
election, giving his party control of the presidency and the legislature.
     Major opposition parties have vowed to boycott the November vote.
     During his news conference, Mirville criticised the opposition
parties, calling them "puppet opposition."
     "This is the most repugnant elite," he said.
     The Clinton administration said two weeks ago that it would not send
observers or $20 million in foreign aid to Haiti for the November elections
unless the Haitian government reexamined skewed results from the May 21
     The United States also condemned Haiti for using the same electoral
council that oversaw the flawed May poll to organise the fall vote.
     The Haitian government has given the electoral council $1 million to
organise the elections, according to Haitian government officials.
     "Despite the absence of international assistance, we're moving forward
with our own money and our own means," said Mirville, who became president
of the council after his predecessor Leon Manus fled into exile in June,
fearing that his life was in jeopardy.
     "Long live free, fair and transparent elections," Mirville said.