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#3799: Haiti-Elections (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>


   PORT-AU-PRINCE, May 23 (AP) -- Charges of fraud and a chaotic vote count
that had workers sweeping up ballots on a Port-au-Prince street threaten
the credibility of an election billed as the last hope for Haitian
   An opposition candidate for a local council, meanwhile, was stoned to
death, the third victim of election violence.
   The disorderly collection and counting of ballots from legislative and
local elections held Sunday was "most unfortunate," said Ambassador Orlando
Marville of the Organization of American States, who is in charge of 200
international observers,
   Even as he and other observers insisted the elections were successful
despite the problems, officials warned that a prolonged count was
vulnerable to tampering.
   Elections were held under pressure from the United States, which sent
troops to oust a military regime in 1994, and the United Nations, which
took over with a peacekeeping and humanitarian mission. The last foreign
troops left Haiti in March.
   In a joint statement, opposition parties charged that "an electoral coup
d'etat" was in the works to give a landslide victory to the Lavalas Family
party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is favored to win
presidential elections in November.
   Bickering over fraud in Haiti's last election, in 1997, led to a feud
between the majority party in Parliament and Aristide protege President
Rene Preval. Preval disbanded Parliament in 1999 and ruled by decree --
creating an unconstitutional government that Sunday's vote was supposed to
   Also at stake is $500 million in foreign aid that has been suspended
until Haiti sets up a constitutional government. The money is desperately
needed in a country where 65 percent of the work force is unemployed.
   Though official results are not expected for days, Aristide's party
claimed a massive victory Monday, and thousands of supporters took to the
streets to celebrate.
   Waving Lavalas placards, hundreds lobbed stones at a group of opposition
protesters, who had been demonstrating to protest alleged fraud. Opposition
candidate Jean-Michele Olophene was later found dead nearby with his head
   Opposition politicians claimed Aristide loyalists had controlled polling
stations and expelled opposition observers.
   Some polling stations opened late Sunday, and hundreds never opened at
all -- which the opposition claimed was a deliberate attempt to discourage
its supporters from voting.
   Lavalas spokesman Yvon Neptune, a senate candidate, said the fraud
accusations came from "a group of politicians with no roots among the
   Ballot papers and empty boxes were strewn in the street in front of the
central counting station for ballots from Port-au-Prince, said Jean-Paul
Poirier, a Canadian consultant to the electoral council. Votes gathered
there represented about a tenth of those cast by the 4 million registered
   Poirier said he organized a cleanup and thought workers recovered about
90 percent of the materials.
   Inside, four officials tried to collate tally sheets from piles of votes
2 feet high. About 29,490 candidates had contested 7,625 posts in the
national legislature, mayoral commissions, and local and rural councils.
   The head of the center, Rose Delaunay, said election officials without
transportation had to carry ballot boxes on their heads in a rainstorm for
up to a mile on Monday.
   At another center in suburban Delmas, hundreds of ballot boxes and tally
sheets were piled up haphazardly and scattered across an open courtyard.
   "It's really a disaster," said election official Sanon Miche, 25,
clutching to his chest the tally sheets and voter registration ledger that
he had brought to be counted.