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#4025: FWD Times/Chronicle - Aristide Party Sweeps Senate (fwd)
Aristide's Party Wins Control of Haitian Senate -- Rivals Decry Tactics
David Gonzalez, New York Times Wednesday, May 31, 2000
Miami -- In a preview of its strength in the coming presidential election,
the party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide gained firm control of
Haiti's Senate, according to preliminary results from the May 21 elections.
The results, which were released late Monday, gave Aristide's Family Lavalas
party 14 of the 19 Senate seats that were at stake in Haiti's first
parliamentary elections since 1997. With large margins of victory, the vote
gives Lavalas the majority in Haiti's 27-member Senate.
Of the other five seats up for election, an independent candidate won one,
while the results for the two seats from the capital, Port-au- Prince, have
yet to be announced. The two remaining Senate seats for Grande Anse Province
will be determined in an election June 11 after electoral officials postponed
the original date because of disorganization and technical difficulties.
The elections represent Haiti's first step in resolving a crisis that has
left its government paralyzed and without access to $500 million in
international aid since 1997.
Bitter arguments between President Rene Preval, of the Lavalas party, and an
opposition-led Parliament over the results of the 1997 legislative elections
prevented the naming of a prime minister for nearly two years. Last year,
Preval appointed a new prime minister, but only after Parliament was
dissolved, and the nation has been without a lawmaking body since then.
Lavalas' success in this year's elections did not extend to the lower house
of parliament; its candidates won outright only 16 of 83 seats in the Chamber
of Deputies. A runoff will be held June 25.
Nonetheless, Lavalas' strong showing places it in the lead for November's
presidential election, in which Aristide is seeking a return to office.
Opposition candidates have accused Lavalas of manipulating the recent
election through a campaign of violence and intimidation that resulted in 15
politically motivated killings since late March. They also said Preval forced
the postponement of elections three times to wear down opposition and secure
a compliant parliament for Aristide's return.
A Lavalas spokesman who was also a candidate for senator dismissed the
``We have no totalitarian intentions,'' Yvon Neptune told the Associated
Press. ``The Haitian people want to get out of the rut of crisis, and we want
to implement a project that will change society.''
Last week, Lavalas supporters ransacked the headquarters of a minor political
party and killed one person, according to diplomats and international
election observers. About 30 opposition candidates have been arrested since
last week on charges that many of the observers said were trumped up. Most
have been released.
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle