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#3759: As Haitians Head to Polls,Kin Wait & Worry (fwd)


As Haitians Head to Polls,Kin Wait & Worry 
By LESLIE CASIMIR Daily News Staff Writer

Marie-Jose Neptune will spend today working the phones from her Long
Island home, urging friends and family in Haiti to overcome their fears
of violence and head to the polls in Haiti's legislative and local
elections today. "If we believe in change, we have to go out and fulfill
our civic duty,"  said Neptune, 50, who will monitor election reports on
the radio. "We should not let that aura of violence refrain us from
voting for our country's future." At least 15 people have been killed
 in Haiti during the last six weeks in violence linked to the elections.
 On Wednesday, a grenade attack in front of the headquarters of the
Provisional Electoral Council, which left several people seriously
injured, renewed people's concerns about the country's failing
democracy.Today's elections are a litmus test for this desperately poor
country, where a U.S.-led occupation in 1994 returned former President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide to office. He was succeeded by President Rene
Preval, who disbanded parliament last yearand has ruled by decree since
then. About 29,500 candidates are running for 7,500 posts in parliament
and municipal offices. The presidential election is scheduled for
December, when Aristide is expected to run   again and win.  Neptune's
husband, a former New York architect, is running for the Senate under
Aristide's Lavalas Family party. Yvon Neptune has been going back and
forth to Haiti since the late 1960s. He moved back six years ago to
support Aristide's government, one that many had hoped would bring
political stability and economic development. Butthat never happened. 
For the tri-state area's 350,000 Haitian immigrants, much is at        
stake in today's elections.Marie Austin, a seamstress from Far Rockaway,
Queens, who  attended a Haitian Flag Day holiday celebration at Brooklyn
 College this week, said she is worried about loved ones back home.     
Haitians in the United States play a crucial role in their homeland's
economy by wiring millions of dollars annually to relatives there. There
are few jobs and no infrastructure or schools to support the population,
Austin explained, placing the burden on those living in the U.S.
 "Having elections means everything to us," said Austin, 50. "If      
we don't have them, then there is no country, there is no government, no