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#4692: Japan reportedly suspends aid to Haiti amid elections controversy (fwd)


Japan reportedly suspends aid to Haiti amid elections
July 21, 2000 Web posted at: 3:13 p.m. EST (1913 GMT)

(FindLaw) -- In some perverse way, the history of election fraud is also
a story of human creativity. We are all familiar with certain tried and
true methods of rigging elections: intimidating voters,stuffing ballot
boxes or instigating a mass turnout of the dead. But there is always
room for-- as Haiti's controversial recent elections show.The senate
races were perhaps the most problematic aspect of these profoundly
flawed elections. In a dramatic sweep, 18 of the 19 senate seats at
stake in the elections went to candidates of the Lavalas family, the
political party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Indeed, one
lucky candidate received an astounding -- and improbable -- 92 percent
of the vote.In democratic countries, landslides of such proportions are
rare. A closer look at the Haitian elections shows why this smashing
victory was too good to be true.

Inflating the numbers

 Nineteen of the country's 27 senate seats were up for grabs in this
year's elections. In each of the country's nine departments, therefore,
two of the three  existing seats were to be filled, except for one
department in which all three were available. Haiti's electoral law
establishes two rounds of balloting for senate races. The first
 round is intended to narrow the field to those candidates with large
voter support. Haiti's numerous small parties -- some so tiny they are
thought to  consist of only the candidate and his closest friends --
make such a method particularly appropriate.  The Haitian Al Gore would
be competing against not one vote-splitting Ralph Nader, but a dozen of
them.Indeed, a total of 145 candidates ran for the 19 senate seats, an
average of 16 in each of the nine departments.  In such circumstances,
first-round election victories are difficult to attain. That is because
under Haitian law, a candidate must obtain an absolute majority - more
than 50 percent of the valid votes -- to win in the first round.Any seat
not won by an absolute majority goes to a second-round election that 
pits only the leading candidates against each other. Amazingly, however,
Haitian election officials tallying this year's results reported that
all 19 of the senate races were decided in the first round. Thus,
officials claimed, there was no need for senate runoff elections.This is
truly hard to believe, especially when the senate races are compared to
those of the other constituent body of the Haitian parliament, the
chamber of deputies. Those parallel elections -- governed by exactly the
same rules and similarly swarming with candidates -- led to wildly
different and much more plausible results.  Only about a third of the 83
deputy races were decided in the first round. The remaining races were
resolved on July 9 in the second-round runoffs. With the same voters and
parties involved, why were the senate election results so radically

Uncovering the fraud

The election monitoring team of the Organization of American States was
quick  to find the explanation for this deluge of first-round senate
victories. The team  compared the absolute number of votes won by each
candidate to the percentage  of the vote that each was awarded. From
this comparison, it deduced that not all  of the votes were counted.
 Instead, in each department, the Haitian electoral council had counted
only votes  for the top four contenders. (In the one department that had
three open seats, the top six contenders' votes were counted.) The votes
accruing to all other  candidates were simply ignored. This bizarre
method of counting grossly inflated  the percentages accorded the two
leading contenders in each department --boosting many over the 50
percent-plus-one threshold necessary to avoid a runoff.
 For example, there should have been a runoff in the North East
Department  where the leading candidates for the two seats garnered 49.7
and 46.4 percent of the vote respectively. But by counting only the
votes cast for the top four candidates -- and thereby ignoring eight
other candidates' votes -- the electoral  council bumped up the leading
candidates' percentages more than 20 points.

Defending the indefensible

When confronted by the OAS, the Haitian electoral council tried to
justify its novel counting method. It asserted that the electoral law
and related provisions of the Haitian Constitution were written to cover
the situation of one senatorial race  per department, without providing
clear guidance when two or more senate seats are at stake.But that's
simply wrong. Granted, the constitution does prescribe that senators    
be elected for staggered terms of six years each, so that ideally only
one senator is elected per department in any given election. But the
drafters of the 1987 constitution knew that the first time the new rules
 were followed, all of the senate seats would be filled, meaning that
there would be multiple seats at stake in all departments. Similarly,
the drafters of the 1999 electoral law knew that this year's election
would have to fill multiple seats in all departments. Indeed, the law
mandates a complicated set of procedures to  address that very
situation.  Moreover, the electoral law contains a careful description
of the runoff  procedures to be followed in the event that neither of
the leading candidates in a given department garners an absolute
majority. This provision would make no sense if the electoral council's
bizarre calculation method were used. Using that method, the leading
candidate in every department is mathematically bound to win in the
first round (and, as the overall results suggest, the second leading
candidate is also extremely likely to win).