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6066: Miami Herald FWD - Aristide calls to all Haitians to participate (fwd)
Aristide calls to all Haitians
BY YVES COLON
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Candidate Jean-Bertrand Aristide acted Monday like
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, dismissing claims of low voter
participation by a coalition of opposition parties who boycotted the
elections, while reaching out to them by saying he cannot build a new Haiti
without the participation of all Haitians.
``The opposition is indispensable,'' Aristide said, speaking as the likely
winner of Sunday's elections, in which the electoral council said more than
60 percent of eligible voters participated.
Members of the opposition coalition say they observed a low turnout, between
5 and 10 percent.
Supporters of Aristide's Family Lavalas party did not wait for the official
word to begin the celebration, dancing to drum and horn music as they
converged on public squares and other meeting places.
The government mounted large speakers in the middle of this city's main
square, near the government palace, for the massive party Monday night.
Indeed, Aristide's partisans say, they were confirming what they say a
majority of Haitians wants -- to see Aristide finally serve out the mandate
they gave him in 1990 until he was overthrown by a military junta less than a
By noon, a small group had begun to gather in the courtyard of the Aristide
Foundation for Democracy. Inside, Aristide slipped into a room behind aides,
sat silently behind a long table, crossed his hands in front of his face and
closed his eyes. He asked for a moment of silence for all Haitians who died
in the violence of the past eight years, since he was overthrown and returned
by 20,000 American soldiers after three years in exile.
It was only a perception of low voter turnout, Aristide explained. After a
week of pipe bombings and other acts of intimidation, he said Haitians
decided no longer to vote in long lines, as customary, so as not to offer a
large target to possible terrorists. Instead, he said, they voted through
stealth, in twos or threes, with someone watching while the rest of the group
filled out and dropped their ballots.
``I credit the intelligence of the Haitian people,'' Aristide said,
mentioning in Creole a Haitian parable that means that someone who is
illiterate is not necessarily a dummy. An estimated 70 percent of Haitians
are illiterate, a group that largely supports Aristide.
In response to the vote, the United States and the Organization of American
States (OAS) expressed reservations.
The OAS said in a statement that the elections ``took place in accord with
the timetable established by the Constitution of Haiti but without any
correction of critical deficiencies in earlier local and legislative
elections,'' referring to the country's May elections.
The vote counts from that earlier election have been criticized for following
``neither the provisions of the Constitution of Haiti nor the Electoral
Law,'' the OAS statement said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said that ``low voter
turnout and preelection violence are strong indicators of the need for
reconciliation among all sectors of Haitian society.''