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6121: Election worries Haitians... (fwd)
Election worries Haitians November 26, 2000
BY MICHELLE FAUL
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti--Surrounded by heavily armed police,
Jean-Bertrand Aristide got out of a car, knelt, clasped his hands in
prayer and kissed the ground where a young boy was killed by a pipe
bomb. Then his guards hustled him back into the car, settling him behind
its black tinted windows. Aristide's first public appearance since
registering to run on Oct. 9 took less than a minute Friday, two days
before Haiti's presidential election today. And few people saw the man
set to return to power in Haiti break his reclusive habit.
The several hundred supporters who were on hand were showered by
hundreds of leaflets dropped from a passing plane, each one showing
Aristide with arms outstretched like a savior.In an atmosphere of fear
and terror as palpable as the pervasive dust here,Haitians are expected
to vote back into office their first freely elected president, the
populist and charismatic former priest toppled in a 1991 military coup
and returned by a U.S. invasion in 1994. Because the constitution does
not allow consecutive terms in office, Aristide stepped down in 1996,
making way for this troubled Caribbean nation's first democratic
transfer of power in its 200-year history. His promises this time around
include a farfetched pledge to create half a million jobs in Haiti,
where only one in three workers is employed and most people are
preoccupied with a daily struggle to find food. "After 200 years of
political and economic violence, we have decided to choose peace,"
Aristide said in a radio message urging Haitians to vote. "Too
much misery, too much insecurity, too much bloodshed. Enough is enough."
But the joy and hope that accompanied Aristide's first election are
markedly absent this time. All the major opposition parties are
boycotting, charging that this year's legislative elections were rigged
to favor Aristide's candidates and that Haiti is sliding back into
dictatorship.In what some critics call a farce of democracy, Aristide is
running against six unknowns who, fearful of attacks, have not
campaigned.Nine senators also will be elected. Aristide's Lavalas Family
party is expected to make a clean sweep. In May, it won 17 of the
remaining 18 Senate seats and 80 percent of the House of Assembly.
International calls for runoff elections have gone unheeded, as have
warnings of aid cutoffs. "We won't participate in an election
masquerade. . . . People who vote will vote for the death of democracy,"
opposition parties said in a radio broadcast.