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5513: Miami Herald - Kurzban on Haiti's Elections (fwd)

From: John Kozyn <jckozyn@hotmail.com>

Published Thursday, November 16, 2000, in the Miami Herald

By Ira J. Kurzban

Fairness in Haiti's elections

On Nov. 26 Haitians will vote in a free and fair democratic election for 
their next president. They are likely to vote in a far greater percentage 
than in the United States, where only some 50 percent of the electorate 
turned out.

In Haiti, however, the large turnout will be due to one person: former 
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Since the main opposition parties, 
acknowledging his popularity, refused to field candidates, Aristide faces 
four relatively unknown challengers. Even so, no one seriously suggests that 
any major-party candidate could come close to Aristide.

Similarly, in May millions of Haitians went to vote for local, state and 
national representatives. Thousands of candidates ran for more than 1,500 
positions. International observers verified that the voting was free, fair, 
open and peaceful. Family Lavalas, Aristide's party, won overwhelming 
victories at virtually every level.

Afterward, a dispute arose about the counting methodology for 10 senate 
seats. Haiti's constitution provides for a central electoral commission, the 
CEP, to resolve disputes. And due to U.S. pressure, no CEP member came from 
Family Lavalas.

The CEP quickly and appropriately determined that a run off was unnecessary, 
relying on a methodology used in the 1990 election when the CEP was advised 
by United Nations experts. The result was that 10 members of Family Lavalas 
won the disputed Senate seats.

Since then, U.S. officials and Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., have characterized 
the Haitian election as fraudulent. The irony is obvious.

Without a CEP, the United States now is in a heated battle for the 
presidency. But no one in the international community has questioned the 
election of Sens. Hillary Clinton or Bill Nelson or suggested that the 
entire U.S. election is fraudulent.

Yet the United States and members of the Organization of American States 
have demanded that Haiti's government change the CEP, redo Senate elections, 
put off the presidential vote until stronger candidates can run, or leave 
some seats to the opposition by not fielding candidates.

Imagine if the same demands were now made on the United States: Americans 
being told that Democrats must be given more seats in the House if Bush wins 
the presidency, or that Republicans be given more seats in the Senate if 
Gore is to be ``allowed'' to win. Or, that we must redo our presidential 
election. What would U.S. officials and Helms say?

The recent U.S. presidential election shows conclusively that we have no 
business telling other countries how to resolve lawful but disputed 
elections. Hopefully, the difficulties we now face as a result of our 
disputed elections will trigger greater patience and respect for the 
decisions of Haiti and other countries, even if we are unhappy with the 

(Ira Kurzban is Haiti's general counsel in the United States. He has been 
advisor to Haitian presidents Jean-Bertrand Aristide and René Preval.)

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