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6101: Events in Haiti (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

(from Caribbean Insight newsletter)

(1 December 2000)

Haiti?s presidential election, held on November 26, was won easily by
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, head of the Fanmi Lavalas (FL) party, on a turnout
which the government-dominated Conseil Electoral Provisoire said was 60.5
per cent, while Haitian and foreign journalists estimated it as much lower.
        The election was boycotted by a weak and divided opposition, which
put the turnout at under 5 per cent.  The names of six minor candidates
were on the ballot paper, although three of them had withdrawn. Prime
Minister Jacques Édouard Alexis admitted that voters had
been ?timid.?
        The FL also won the nine Senate seats up for election, giving it a
majority of 26 to one in the upper house. There was virtually no
campaigning in the election, with the opposition fearing attacks by FL
supporters.  Mr Aristide made only two brief public appearances.
        Following his victory, Mr Aristide, who had promised Haitians
"peace in our minds and in our stomachs" as well as half a million new
jobs, said there would be ?a place for everyone? in his government, adding:
?We shall build a nation of love rooted in democracy." Addressing his first
press conference for six years, he declared: ?To have a peaceful Haiti, the
opposition is indispensable.?
        Denying opposition charges that he was planning to make himself
President for life, he said there was ?no way for Haiti to go back to
dictatorship.?  He promised ?peace in our minds and in our stomachs,?
saying that 500,000 new jobs would be created.
        Former Information Minister Hervé Denis, once an Aristide
supporter, said the election had been ?illegitimate,? adding that Mr
Aristide had ?no mandate to govern? while stating that the opposition would
provide a ?peaceful alternative."  A former senior aide to Mr Aristide, the
peasant leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, described the election as ?a
consecration of the new Lavalas dictatorship."
        In the week before the election, a spate of pipe-bomb explosions
and shootings in Port-au-Prince and its suburbs had killed a teenage boy
and a girl of seven; another 17 people were injured.  About 20 people were
arrested, as President René Préval blamed the
attacks on ?enemies of democracy ? who had ?played the death card ? in an
attempt to scare voters.  Mr Alexis suggested it was the work of the
opposition, who in turn accused the FL of orchestrating the attacks. 
Pro-Aristide ?popular organisations? called for the arrest of opposition
figures, some of whom had said that voting would be ?to vote for the death
of democracy.?  
        The UN and the United States had refused to help finance or observe
the election, in protest against the method of calculating percentage votes
which had exaggerated the FL victory in the May 21 parliamentary elections.
Reiterating that the ?serious irregularities ? in May had not been
corrected, the US State Department nevertheless said it would continue to
?support the Haitian people,? emphasising the ?strong need for
reconciliation in Haiti."  
        A United Nations official expressed satisfaction that the election
had taken place and that there had been ?relatively little violence.?  The
Organisation of American States, which had first objected to the May 21
results, warned that there was "a need to resolve questions of political
representation and democratic participation critical to Haiti's
        The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, recommended on November 28
that the police training and human rights monitoring mission should be
closed when its mandate expired on February 6, because it was under-funded
and could not function properly in ?a climate of political turmoil."   The
three-year political deadlock was ruining the country, he said.
        Three days before the election, prime minister Alexis was confirmed
in his post by parliament, two and a half years after his nomination in
July 1998 and 22 months after he was appointed by Préval in January 1999.