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#3781: Haiti-Elections (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By MICHELLE FAUL
PORT-AU-PRINCE, May 22 (AP) -- Poring through mounds of ballots, Haitian
officials struggled Monday to tabulate the results of legislative and local
elections supposed to set the nation back on the road to democracy.
Sunday's peaceful vote was marked by a heavy turnout. But the chaos
surrounding Monday's vote count was "most unfortunate," said Ambassador
Orlando Marville of the Organization of American States, supervisor of more
than 200 foreign observers.
Officials warned that a disorganized and prolonged count would be
vulnerable to tampering. Meanwhile, the Lavalas Family party of former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide claimed victory, though no results had
Opposition parties charged in a joint statement that "an electoral coup
d'etat" was in the works to give a landslide victory to Lavalas and
Aristide, who is favored to win presidential elections this fall.
Bickering over fraud in the 1997 election led to a feud between
Parliament and President Rene Preval, who is allied with Aristide. Preval
disbanded Parliament in 1999 and ruled by decree -- creating an
unconstitutional government that Sunday's vote was supposed to fix.
The United States and United Nations both urged Haiti to hold the
elections, and foreign creditors suspended $500 million in aid until the
Caribbean nation re-established a constitutional government.
But Monday's harried vote-counting cast doubt on the election's
credibility. Opposition politicians claimed Aristide loyalists had
controlled polling stations and expelled opposition observers.
Some polling stations opened late Sunday, and hundreds never opened --
which the opposition claimed was the result of a deliberate attempt to
discourage its supporters from voting.
"We will not accept the results of these elections without an
evaluation" by national and international observers, said Evans Paul,
spokesman for the five-party Space for Concord coalition.
Riot police fired tear gas Monday to disperse a few dozen opposition
supporters protesting alleged vote-rigging. After the police left, hundreds
of Aristide militants chased the demonstrators with a storm of stones.
Lavalas spokesman Yvon Neptune, a senate candidate, said the accusations
of vote-rigging came from "a group of politicians with no roots among the
In the Port-au-Prince tabulation center, four officials sat atop piles
of votes 2 feet high, trying Monday to collate tally sheets. About 29,490
candidates had contested 7,625 posts in the legislature, mayoral
commissions, and local and rural councils. Runoffs were scheduled for June
Head of the center, Rose Delaunay, said that election officials without
transportation had to carry ballot boxes on their heads in a rainstorm for
up to a mile Monday.
Ballots and ballot boxes were "strewn all over the streets at 3 a.m.,"
said Jean-Paul Poirier, a Canadian consultant to the electoral council who
organized an effort to save materials in several areas.
In suburban Delmas, hundreds of boxes were piled up in disorder, and
final tally sheets were scattered across a courtyard.