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5918: From the UK Guardian on election in Haiti
From: Charles Arthur <email@example.com>
Violence and boycott mar Haitian election campaign
by Owen Bowcott - The Guardian
Thursday November 23, 2000
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the slum parish priest once hailed as the democratic
saviour of impoverished Haiti, is expected to sweep back to power this
weekend in a presidential election conducted amid random violence.
All of the Caribbean nation's main opposition parties have withdrawn their
candidates in protest at disputed counting of votes in May's parliamentary
election, which handed overwhelming victory to the ruling Fanmi Lavalas
party, led by Father Aristide.
The Organisation of American States, which monitored but refused to ratify
those polls, has declined to oversee this presidential race.
Campaigning has been low key. Father Aristide, 47, who is now married with
two daughters, has not spoken in public since October 9, when he registered
his candidacy. He has become reclusive, receiving visitors in his walled
40-acre estate on the outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince. His Aristide
Foundation for Democracy website was last updated in November 1999.
Since the United States sent in 20,000 troops in 1994 to remove the leaders
of a military coup and restore the ousted President Aristide, Haiti,
traditionally the poorest country in the Americas, has repeatedly
disappointed the hopes of the international community.
Father Aristide stood down in 1996, in one of the country's rare instances
of a peaceful transfer of power. Despite his popularity, Titid, as he is
known, was barred from standing for immediate re-election under a strict
constitutional provision - designed to prevent the re-establishment of
dictatorships - which outlawed consecutive presidential terms.
The president argued he was entitled to serve three years lost in exile, but
international pressure forced him to hand over power to his protege, René
The scramble for votes in the American presidential election, where
naturalised Haitian refugees were among those criticising electoral
irregularities in Florida, has overshadowed the Haitian poll and undermined
US disapproval. President Clinton's call for Haiti to remedy the "serious
irregularities and deficiencies evident in the May elections" has
effectively been ignored.
In the runup to the presidential election, there have been numerous gun
attacks but without any claims of responsibility. Earlier this month, 10
people were killed in the space of 24 hours in Port-au-Prince and incendiary
devices were thrown into election council buildings.
In Gonaives, Haiti's second city, gunmen on a motorcycle riddled an empty UN
vehicle with bullets last week.
To add to the atmosphere of insecurity, six senior policemen fled across the
border to the Dominican Republic several weeks ago after being accused of
plotting to assassinate Father Aristide, President Préval and the prime
minister, Jacques-Edouard Alexis.
The officers, who included the police chief from the northern city of
Cap-Haitien, were alleged to have been planning a coup.
The opposition parties hope that their decision to pull out of this
weekend's race will raise questions about the legitimacy of the contest.
"This election is a masquerade," said Calixte Dorisca, an independent
candidate who withdrew earlier this month. Another candidate, Evans Nicolas,
said he would not run in an election marred by violence, allegations of
unfairness and voter apathy. "We want a balanced elections council, not one
loaded with Aristide partisans," Mr Nicolas said.
But the elections council has said it is too late for candidates to withdraw
because their names are already on ballot papers for the more than 4m people
registered to vote.
Fanmi Lavalas mayors in several towns have recently been accused of
harassing anti-government protesters.
A British charity, Action Aid, has expressed concern about its work
supporting coffee growing in the town of Thiotte, after its staff were told
not to criticise the government.
"We aim to promote the democratic process but we were called in by the local
mayor. If our right to express our views is now in jeopardy, then this is
becoming like the early years of the Duvalier regime," said the charity's
regional coordinator, Helen Collinson.
More than half of Haiti's population of 8m are illiterate, and 5% of the
workforce are thought to be infected with the Aids virus. But despite the
country's poverty, many foreign donors have withdrawn, or threatened to
withdraw, funding from Haiti in protest at the political climate.
SEE THE HAITI SUPPORT GROUP WEB SITE: http://www.gn.apc.org/haitisupport
The Haiti Support Group - solidarity with the Haitian people's struggle for
justice, participatory democracy and equitable development, since 1992.
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