[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

5918: From the UK Guardian on election in Haiti

From: Charles Arthur <charlesarthur@hotmail.com>

Violence and boycott mar Haitian election campaign

by Owen Bowcott - The Guardian

Thursday November 23, 2000

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the slum parish priest once hailed as the democratic 
saviour of impoverished Haiti, is expected to sweep back to power this 
weekend in a presidential election conducted amid random violence.

All of the Caribbean nation's main opposition parties have withdrawn their 
candidates in protest at disputed counting of votes in May's parliamentary 
election, which handed overwhelming victory to the ruling Fanmi Lavalas 
party, led by Father Aristide.

The Organisation of American States, which monitored but refused to ratify 
those polls, has declined to oversee this presidential race.

Campaigning has been low key. Father Aristide, 47, who is now married with 
two daughters, has not spoken in public since October 9, when he registered 
his candidacy. He has become reclusive, receiving visitors in his walled 
40-acre estate on the outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince. His Aristide 
Foundation for Democracy website was last updated in November 1999.

Since the United States sent in 20,000 troops in 1994 to remove the leaders 
of a military coup and restore the ousted President Aristide, Haiti, 
traditionally the poorest country in the Americas, has repeatedly 
disappointed the hopes of the international community.

Father Aristide stood down in 1996, in one of the country's rare instances 
of a peaceful transfer of power. Despite his popularity, Titid, as he is 
known, was barred from standing for immediate re-election under a strict 
constitutional provision - designed to prevent the re-establishment of 
dictatorships - which outlawed consecutive presidential terms.

The president argued he was entitled to serve three years lost in exile, but 
international pressure forced him to hand over power to his protege, René 

The scramble for votes in the American presidential election, where 
naturalised Haitian refugees were among those criticising electoral 
irregularities in Florida, has overshadowed the Haitian poll and undermined 
US disapproval. President Clinton's call for Haiti to remedy the "serious 
irregularities and deficiencies evident in the May elections" has 
effectively been ignored.

In the runup to the presidential election, there have been numerous gun 
attacks but without any claims of responsibility. Earlier this month, 10 
people were killed in the space of 24 hours in Port-au-Prince and incendiary 
devices were thrown into election council buildings.

In Gonaives, Haiti's second city, gunmen on a motorcycle riddled an empty UN 
vehicle with bullets last week.

To add to the atmosphere of insecurity, six senior policemen fled across the 
border to the Dominican Republic several weeks ago after being accused of 
plotting to assassinate Father Aristide, President Préval and the prime 
minister, Jacques-Edouard Alexis.

The officers, who included the police chief from the northern city of 
Cap-Haitien, were alleged to have been planning a coup.

The opposition parties hope that their decision to pull out of this 
weekend's race will raise questions about the legitimacy of the contest.

"This election is a masquerade," said Calixte Dorisca, an independent 
candidate who withdrew earlier this month. Another candidate, Evans Nicolas, 
said he would not run in an election marred by violence, allegations of 
unfairness and voter apathy. "We want a balanced elections council, not one 
loaded with Aristide partisans," Mr Nicolas said.

But the elections council has said it is too late for candidates to withdraw 
because their names are already on ballot papers for the more than 4m people 
registered to vote.

Fanmi Lavalas mayors in several towns have recently been accused of 
harassing anti-government protesters.

A British charity, Action Aid, has expressed concern about its work 
supporting coffee growing in the town of Thiotte, after its staff were told 
not to criticise the government.

"We aim to promote the democratic process but we were called in by the local 
mayor. If our right to express our views is now in jeopardy, then this is 
becoming like the early years of the Duvalier regime," said the charity's 
regional coordinator, Helen Collinson.

More than half of Haiti's population of 8m are illiterate, and 5% of the 
workforce are thought to be infected with the Aids virus. But despite the 
country's poverty, many foreign donors have withdrawn, or threatened to 
withdraw, funding from Haiti in protest at the political climate.

SEE THE HAITI SUPPORT GROUP WEB SITE:  http://www.gn.apc.org/haitisupport

The Haiti Support Group - solidarity with the Haitian people's struggle for 
justice, participatory democracy and equitable development, since 1992.

Get more from the Web.  FREE MSN Explorer download : http://explorer.msn.com