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#1743: This Week in Haiti 17:42 1/5/2000 (fwd)

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                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                       January 5 - 11, 2000
                          Vol. 17, No. 42

Election Trouble Already

Barely had the last of the candidates for the elections scheduled
for Mar. 19 finished registering on Dec. 12 than hostilities
broke out among the contending political parties.

Parties have charged and counter-charged each other with taking
control of the BEDs and BECs (respectively the Departmental and
Communal Electoral Bureaus), which will supervise the vote.

The personnel of the Electoral Bureaus are appointed by the nine-
member Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). They will employ
supervisors, presently in training, who will arrange places for
voter registration and polling, supervise the registration
process and the vote itself, and be obligated to follow up on any
election irregularities reported by observers or participants.

Washington’s former proxy party, now discarded, the Organization
of People in Struggle (OPL), was the first to cry foul last
month. It charged that the CEP was packing the BEDs and BECs with
partisans of the Lavalas Family, the party of former president
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the Espace de Concertation, a center-
right front with the implicit backing of Washington. Other tiny
far-right parties piled in behind the OPL’s accusation.

CEP counselor Irma Rateau rebuffed the complaints, saying that
the electoral law gave the council the power to pick whomever it
wanted without the interference of parties. “There is no question
about it, the political parties cannot involve themselves in the
matter of the choice of supervisors,” Rateau said. “Nobody has
given the Lavalas Family nor the Espace de Concertation any kind
of priority.”

Meanwhile, the Espace, to divert attention from itself and gain
sympathy from the other parties, has complained that its
partisans are being shut out of the ranks of supervisors. “There
has to be an improvement in the way supervisors are selected,”
declared Evans Paul, an Espace leader, “because the people the
CEP is choosing as supervisors come mostly from only one
political sector. We would like to see more balance and we are
not only asking that on behalf of the Espace de Concertation, but
we would ask that the CEP take into consideration the reactions
and demands of most of the political parties involved in the
process which feel they have been wronged by how the choice is

The “one political sector” which Paul, and other right-wing
politicians, have been targeting is the Lavalas Family, and any
other parties which might be of a progressive orientation.
Ironically, the progressive parties seem more likely to be the
victim of an “electoral coup d’état” in March, as has repeatedly
warned the National Popular Party (PPN), which has pulled out of
the elections.

Proof of this came during the last two weeks from Haiti’s most
western department, the Grand’Anse, where pre-election violence
flared after Ernso Saint-Clair, the president of the Grand’Anse
BED, openly sided with the Espace against the progressive
grassroots organization Korega and the party affiliated to it,
the Eskamp.

For years, Korega has been the most popular and powerful
organization in the Grand’Anse. Thus it was shocking when the BED
and BEC disqualified Georges Simon, Eskamp’s candidate for mayor
in the town of Anse d’Hainault, on the pretext that he was
calling for violence. Outraged, the population of the town rose
up and burned the BEC’s vehicle and ransacked their office. A
confusing series of rumors and charges have ensued, and the area
still remains tense.

“I think that the authorities of the BED and the BEC of the
Grand’Anse have purposefully created confusion. That is why they
refuse to relate facts as they in fact occurred,” declared former
deputy Kelly Bastien, another Eskamp candidate. “They have
deliberately chosen to emphasize the reaction of the population
in response to an action. They had decided to disqualify Georges
Simon because he said on the airwaves that he was entering the
elections to confront the Espace de Concertation. But in just the
same way, the Espace had said that it will confront the Lavalas
and even the OPL.”

Simon made no call to violence, Bastien said, and there is no
justification for his disqualification.

Meanwhile, according to Father Joachim Samedi, the curate of the
St. Helene parish in Jérémie and a Korega leader, a rural-based
SWAT team repressed the demonstrations in Anse d’Hainault with
such brutality that one woman, a certain Mme. Jeudi, was killed.
He holds the CEP responsible.

“The first step toward guaranteeing a durable climate of peace
for the electoral process is to reform the BED and the BECs [in
the Grand’Anse],” Father Samedi said. “If the CEP, when choosing
the BED, had listened to the demands of the department’s
organized sector, Madame Jeudi would not have died under the
clubs of some members of the UDMO (Departmental Unit for the
Maintenance of Order)... It is sad the way the CEP sent a SWAT
team to repress the population of Anse d’Hainault for a car that
got burned and a CEP office that got trashed. We lost a lot more
than the CEP. They cannot replace Mme. Jeudi. But they can buy
another car. We hope that this time, the CEP will have the wisdom
to apply a reasonable solution which everybody is waiting for;
the BED and the BECs do not have the population’s trust.”

Indeed, in Anse d’Hainault, the direction of the BEC does seem
rather compromised. According to Bastien, “Roselaure Aubourg, the
president of the Anse d’Hainault BEC, is the niece of one of the
mayoral candidates of the Espace de Concertation. She even lives
at the house of this uncle. It is a clear conflict of interest.”

A Commission of Inquiry, with CEP president Leon Manus at its
head, tried to make its way to Anse d’Hainault to investigate the
situation there, but never arrived due to a car accident en
route, Bastien reported on Dec. 31. In the meantime, “there is
really a tense situation there because the population is waiting
for the visit of the CEP and their final decision on the case of
George Simon,” Bastien said.

Meanwhile, voter registration is due to begin on Jan. 10 with the
distribution of photo-ID electoral cards. Although CEP president
Manus declared on Dec. 30 that the population should “go to the
registration stations en masse” on Jan. 10, CEP spokesman
Macajoux Médard sounded a cautionary note the same day. “We have
met many problems in training the supervisors,” he said, “so the
training has taken a lot longer than we anticipated.” He also
claimed that the parties had been late in turning in certain
paperwork. As a result he said “it is too early to say now
whether or not we will meet the deadline of Jan. 10. It’s
possible, but we really can’t say.”

If there is a delay, one can be sure that it will be seized upon
by the most unpopular candidates, mostly from the ultra-right, to
issue more complaints and pathetic ultimatums. At the same time,
the Espace de Concertation seems to be reinforcing its
predominance in BEDs and BECs around the country.

Meanwhile, the popular organization Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan joined
the PPN in shunning participation in the elections because “we
have the feeling that the elections are being controlled by the
international institutions,” said Sylvain Jean, a spokesman for
the group. “We also feel that the international community has a
much bigger stake in these elections than do the Haitian people.”

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