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5513: Miami Herald - Kurzban on Haiti's Elections (fwd)
From: John Kozyn <email@example.com>
Published Thursday, November 16, 2000, in the Miami Herald
By Ira J. Kurzban
Fairness in Haiti's elections
On Nov. 26 Haitians will vote in a free and fair democratic election for
their next president. They are likely to vote in a far greater percentage
than in the United States, where only some 50 percent of the electorate
In Haiti, however, the large turnout will be due to one person: former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Since the main opposition parties,
acknowledging his popularity, refused to field candidates, Aristide faces
four relatively unknown challengers. Even so, no one seriously suggests that
any major-party candidate could come close to Aristide.
Similarly, in May millions of Haitians went to vote for local, state and
national representatives. Thousands of candidates ran for more than 1,500
positions. International observers verified that the voting was free, fair,
open and peaceful. Family Lavalas, Aristide's party, won overwhelming
victories at virtually every level.
Afterward, a dispute arose about the counting methodology for 10 senate
seats. Haiti's constitution provides for a central electoral commission, the
CEP, to resolve disputes. And due to U.S. pressure, no CEP member came from
The CEP quickly and appropriately determined that a run off was unnecessary,
relying on a methodology used in the 1990 election when the CEP was advised
by United Nations experts. The result was that 10 members of Family Lavalas
won the disputed Senate seats.
Since then, U.S. officials and Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., have characterized
the Haitian election as fraudulent. The irony is obvious.
Without a CEP, the United States now is in a heated battle for the
presidency. But no one in the international community has questioned the
election of Sens. Hillary Clinton or Bill Nelson or suggested that the
entire U.S. election is fraudulent.
Yet the United States and members of the Organization of American States
have demanded that Haiti's government change the CEP, redo Senate elections,
put off the presidential vote until stronger candidates can run, or leave
some seats to the opposition by not fielding candidates.
Imagine if the same demands were now made on the United States: Americans
being told that Democrats must be given more seats in the House if Bush wins
the presidency, or that Republicans be given more seats in the Senate if
Gore is to be ``allowed'' to win. Or, that we must redo our presidential
election. What would U.S. officials and Helms say?
The recent U.S. presidential election shows conclusively that we have no
business telling other countries how to resolve lawful but disputed
elections. Hopefully, the difficulties we now face as a result of our
disputed elections will trigger greater patience and respect for the
decisions of Haiti and other countries, even if we are unhappy with the
(Ira Kurzban is Haiti's general counsel in the United States. He has been
advisor to Haitian presidents Jean-Bertrand Aristide and René Preval.)
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