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#3805: OFL the Probable Winner (fwd)

From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>
Published Tuesday, May 23, 2000, in the Miami Herald

Early results show Aristide party win
Haiti elections back ex-leader

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Preliminary evidence suggested Monday that former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas Family party may be headed
for a substantial victory in Sunday's parliamentary and local elections.

Final results are not likely to be known for several days, but
diplomats, journalists and international and national election observers 
who monitored vote counting at selected individual polling stations said 
most reflected a heavy margin for Lavalas candidates.

One local political analyst who is not pro-Aristide had predicted that 
Lavalas would win six to nine of 19 Senate seats and 15 to 20 of the 83 
seats in the lower chamber. He upped that assessment Monday to 12 to 14 
Senate seats and 50 to 60 in the lower chamber.

The new parliament is expected to be seated in July, paving the way for 
Aristide's reelection to the presidency later in the year and opening
the country up to foreign aid that has been stalled by lack of a
parliament since January 1999.

``If the results I have yesterday from a dozen voting places are the
same throughout the country, it means Aristide is going to be the next 
president of Haiti with a parliament in which he has a majority,'' said 
the Haitian analyst, who asked to remain anonymous.

He added that he believed such an outcome was not the result of fraud, 
but the fact that ``the Haitian people voted overwhelmingly for
[Lavalas] because they wanted Aristide to come back. They did not vote 
for the candidate.''


As indications of the Lavalas victory began to emerge, so did
allegations of irregularities from opposition leaders, reinforced by the 
organizational disarray of the elections.

At one electoral office in downtown Port-au-Prince, poll workers
apparently finished their tally late Sunday then dumped the ballots into 
the street.

Orlando Marville, a Barbados diplomat who heads an Electoral Observation 
Mission for the Organization of American States, said voter tally sheets 
and the voter registry remained in the offices where the ballots had
been dumped.

In the island of Gonave, off Port-au-Prince, opposition parties refused 
to accept the results of Sunday's election, charging that all the
polling stations were under the control of Lavalas. In the Grand Anse
department of southwestern Haiti, elections were postponed because of a 
dispute over the composition of the local provisional electoral council.

Marville said his office had unconfirmed reports of election day
violence at only 15 of more than 11,200 polling stations, most in rural 
areas northeast of the capital. They included such things as armed men 
taking over polling stations and burning of ballot boxes.

A minor party candidate for mayor of Port-au-Prince died Monday
following a clash between his supporters and those of Lavalas. The
candidate, Jean-Michel Holefen, was hit in the head by a rock. Police
fired tear gas to break up the melee in downtown Port-au-Prince.


Meanwhile, both local and foreign observers hailed the Sunday election 
for its high voter turnout and the lack of violence, despite its
technical imperfections.

The turnout, said Marville, ``was very acceptable.'' He did not have
percentages yet but said ``it seemed to have been about 50 percent'' of 
Haiti's one million registered voters.

``Haiti has surprised the world with an election that had a lesser
degree of violence and higher level of turnout than expected,'' said
Lionel Delatour, secretary general of a private sector foundation.

Both Marville and a U.S. congressional delegation, including Rep. John 
Conyers, D-Mich., and William Delahunt, D-Mass., praised the election
day work of Haiti's beleaguered National Police for helping to maintain 
the calm.

But their highest praise went to the Haitian voters.

``Though we do not presume to paint the entire picture, or draw any firm 
conclusions from our preliminary observations, we can say we saw a firm 
commitment from Haiti's citizens to make these elections a success,''
the delegation said.

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