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#3673: Haiti Elections on Track for Sunday (fwd)

From: Rosann Clements <rosann@onemain.com>

Haiti Elections on Track for Sunday
The Associated Press, Tue 16 May 2000
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP - After repeated delays and weeks of political
violence, Haiti appeared set to hold parliamentary and local elections,
after the last opposition party announced Tuesday that it would field
``Barring circumstances beyond our control, the first round will take place
on Sunday,'' said Leon Manus, president of the electoral council.
The vote is pivotal to this desperately poor Caribbean country, after a
tumultuous decade that saw its first free election, a military coup, a
U.S.-led invasion and a political paralysis after a 1997 parliamentary
election in which only 5 percent voted and results were widely contested.
Sunday's legislative and municipal elections come after President Rene
Preval disbanded parliament in 1999, effectively ruling by decree ever
About 93 percent of Haiti's electorate of 4 million have registered to vote
``Political parties and all sectors of the country have decided to
participate in elections,'' said Hubert Deronceray, spokesman for the
nine-party Patriotic Movement to Save the Nation, which threatened a boycott
unless the government did more to guarantee security.
At stake is the entire 83-seat lower house, 19 seats in the 27-seat upper
house, and 7,500 local government positions across the country.
Parliamentary posts are elected in districts, with an absolute majority
required to avoid a runoff June 25. Some 29,500 candidates are running for
all posts.
The elections are also something of a test run for the presidential election
planned for December - in which ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is
expected to run and win.
Aristide, the country's first elected leader, was ousted by a military coup
in 1991 and was restored four years later after the U.S.-led invasion.
Prevented constitutionally from a consecutive term, he handed over the reins
to Preval in 1996 - but many here are convinced that he has continued to
pull the strings behind the scenes.
Opposition politicians have claimed electoral authorities are biased in
favor of Aristide's Lavalas Family party. They also say Lavalas is secretly
behind a wave of unsolved killings of opposition figures. Lavalas officials
have rejected the charges.
Since March 27, 15 people have been killed in politically related slayings,
five of them provincial election campaign managers.
Authorities say 3,500 police are ready to prevent violence at the polls.
About 200 foreign observers will be on hand Sunday, including delegations
from the Organization of American States and the National Democratic
Institute, an arm of the U.S. party. The local National Observation Council
also planned to deploy some 30,000 observers.