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5907: "Another Setback for Democracy in Haiti" (fwd)

From: Haiti123@aol.com

Busyness Network News: "You Heard It Here First"

Port-au-Prince, November 27, 2000

Another Setback For Democracy in Haiti

Haiti's fragile democracy took another step backwards yesterday with failed 
elections for President and one third of the Senate.  The elections were 
plagued by violence and boycotted by almost everyone concerned, including the 
international community and Haiti's political parties.  

The streets of Port-au-Prince, normally teeming with the large SUV's of the 
diplomatic corps, international organizations and Haiti's elite, were 
deserted Sunday, except for public transportation and voters on foot, bicycle 
and donkey.  Foreigners have been confined to poolside since Wednesday, after 
a series of bombs exploded in poor neighborhoods and markets.

Haiti's primitive technology requires hand counting of the ballots, so final 
results will not be known for days.  Initial estimates indicate that 65% of 
Haiti's 5 million registered voters turned out, and 75% of them voted for 
former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.  According to international experts 
the projections are enough to show a disturbing pattern.

"The 35% abstention rate is simply not consistent with a mature democracy" 
according to a U.S. Embassy source.  "In America we always reach 50%, without 
bombing markets and shooting bus stops.  There is something very wrong when 
the citizens feel they need to walk a long way to wait in the hot sun in this 
security climate, just to send their government a message."

Observers agree that Haiti has missed another opportunity to develop a 
multiparty democracy. "It looks like Aristide will win about one vote for 
every two registered voters" according to an international expert.  "In the 
U.S., that  number was spread more evenly among Bush and Gore, and Buchanan 
and Nader combined.  If you look at the opposition, none of them have ever 
been allowed to be elected to any office, except when they were running on 
Aristide's coattails."

It appears that Aristide's party, Fanmi Lavalas, will win all nine contested 
Senate seats, giving it a solid majority in both houses of parliament.  "This 
is clearly a dangerous situation.  In the 1995 legislative elections, the 
winners campaigned on Aristide's bandwagon, but when they got to parliament 
they realized that his power base was nothing but popular support.   We ran 
democracy seminars, trainings and meetings with the representatives, and 
eventually they changed gears, and abandoned Aristide and his program for one 
more acceptable to the international community.  We are not confident that 
the current Parliament will mature in the same way."

A controversy over the distinction between "blank" and "null" ballots that 
marred elections in 1997 has resurfaced.  A "blank" ballot contains no 
markings, while a "null" ballot is marked, but incorrectly.  Haiti has always 
had many of both, which is often explained by its low literacy and short 
history of democracy.  In 1997, the Electoral Council, following precedent, 
discarded both blank and null ballots in calculating the winning percentages. 
 Candidates who lost in the first round contended that there was a difference 
between the two, and that blank votes should be included in the calculations. 
  This year the problem is more serious, because there are more votes in the 
"null" and "blank" categories than for any candidate save Aristide.  
Politicians are rushing to claim to the "null" and "blank" standards, on the 
basis of their electoral history, their party platform, or their embrace of  
"option zero".  "Option zero",  now renamed "option null" or "option blank", 
was a campaign strategy of insisting that the legislative elections of May, 
2000 be annulled, the Electoral Council disbanded and the President replaced 
before the presidential elections could be held.

A party officially declared "null" or "blank" would have two substantial 
advantages.  First, as in the U.S., matching government funds are at stake.  
Second, in the event of a runoff in the presidential race, either null or 
blank would go head to head with Aristide.   As one opposition politician 
stated, "Aristide only got 75% of those who showed up to vote.  He may end up 
with less than 50% of the total registered voters.  It is safe to assume that 
the other 50% either voted for us, or didn't vote because of our call for a 
boycott and other activities leading up to the election."

Copyright 2000, Busyness Network News (Political Satire)

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