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5533: Candidates Drop Out of Haiti's Race (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Friday November 17 7:49 PM ET
Candidates Drop Out of Haiti's Race 
 By MICHAEL NORTON, Associated Press Writer 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Two candidates withdrew Friday from Haiti's
presidential race,accusing electoral officials of favoring former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.Evans Nicolas and Paul Arthur Fleurival
said that they wouldn't run in an election marred by violence,          
allegations of unfairness and voter apathy.All of Haiti's major
opposition parties are boycotting the Nov. 26 vote, and Aristide's race
against a handful of unknowns is raising questions at home and abroad
about the legitimacy of any victory.Besides Aristide, four other
candidates are seeking the office.Aristide is expected to win handily,
but it could be a hollow victory if his government is not recognized
by the international community, which contributes the majority of the
budget for this impoverished Caribbean nation.`We want a balanced
elections council, not one loaded with Aristide partisans,'' Nicolas
said.This election is a masquerade,'' said Calixte Dorisca, an
independent candidate who withdrew earlier this month. But the elections
council said it was too late for candidates to withdraw because their
names are already on ballots for Haiti's more than 4 million voters,
council member Carlo Dupiton said.Boycotting parties say local and
legislative elections earlier this year were rigged to favor Aristide
candidates, who swept more than 80 percent of seats.The international
community decried the method used to determine the victory of 10
senators from Aristide's party. In protest, the United States and the
European Union (news - web sites) have threatened to withhold aid or
channel it through private agencies. Last month, the United Nations
(news - web sites) turned down a Haitian government request for  
technical election assistance. The United States also has refused to
contribute.After decades of dictatorship, Aristide, a former slum
priest, won Haiti's first free elections in a landslide in 1990. He was
ousted by the army in 1991 and restored when the United States sent
20,000 troops to Haiti in 1994. In 1996, Aristide handed over to his
hand-picked successor, Rene Preval, because the constitution does not
allow consecutive terms of office.In recent surveys published by the
daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste, 57 percent of 400 people polled
said they would not vote under current conditions, and 57 percent said
the election was not credible without major opposition candidates.
 A rash of attacks have also raised fears of election-day violence,
though it was not clear they were politically motivated.In the western
port city of Gonaives, gunmen on a motorcycle riddled a parked and empty
U.N. vehicle with bullets Thursday. In the capital Port-Au-Prince,
gunmen in a pickup truck killed three and wounded seven Tuesday.