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5979: AP FWD: Fear, Disillusionment Hang Over Haitian Elections , (fwd)
Fear, Disillusionment Hang Over Haitian Elections
Sunday, November 26, 2000
BY MICHELLE FAUL
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Surrounded by heavily armed police, Jean-Bertrand
Aristide got out of a car, knelt, clasped his hands in prayer and kissed the
ground where a young boy was killed by a pipe bomb. Then his guards hustled
him back into the car, settling him behind its black tinted windows.
Aristide's first public appearance since registering to run Oct. 9 took
less than a minute Friday, two days before Haiti's presidential election. Few
people saw the man set to return to power break his reclusive habit.
In an atmosphere of fear and terror as palpable as the pervasive dust
here, Haitians are expected today to vote back into office their first freely
elected president, the populist and charismatic former priest toppled in a
1991 military coup and returned by a U.S. invasion in 1994. Because the
constitution does not allow consecutive terms in office, Aristide stepped
down in 1996.
His promises this time around include a far-fetched pledge to create half
a million jobs in Haiti, where only one in three workers is employed and most
struggle to find food.
But the joy and hope that accompanied Aristide's first election are
markedly absent this time. All the major opposition parties are boycotting,
charging that this year's legislative elections were rigged to favor
Aristide's candidates and that Haiti is sliding back into dictatorship.
In what some critics call a farce of democracy, Aristide is running
against six unknowns who, fearful of attacks, have not campaigned. Nine
senators also will be elected. Aristide's party is expected to make a clean
International calls for runoff elections have gone unheeded, as have
warnings of aid cutoffs.
"We won't participate in an election masquerade. . . . People who vote
will vote for the death of democracy," opposition parties said in a radio
Nine pipe bombs exploded in the capital Wednesday and Thursday, killing
two children. Bomb threats may deter voters.