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5973: Aristide poised to win today's election in Haiti (fwd)
Published Sunday, November 26, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Aristide poised to win today's election in Haiti
BY YVES COLON
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Oless Alphonse plans to make a pilgrimage today.
He spent part of Saturday morning sweeping dry leaves, bits of paper
and plastic bottles from in front of the polling station on a dirt road
in his suburban neighborhood of Delmas, where he will vote today with
thousands of other Haitians. ''I don't want the citizens to come here to
walk on trash on a day like today,'' said Alphonse, 47. ''If I
could, I would clean the whole country.' Alphonse will be dressed in a
white shirt, white pants, white socks and white shoes. He plans to
vote for former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the man he said is
the best hope for Haitians like himself. The symbolism, he said, should
not be lost. ''He's my father,'' said Alphonse, who sells food staples
and lottery tickets in a dark storefront near the polling station.
''He's a leader who has given dignity to the poor. Along with choosing a
president, Haitians will vote for nine senators in a runoff
election. The way there has been difficult and filled with violence.
The police were called to the suburb of Petionville early Saturday
afternoon after two men dropped a plastic bag into a box and ran. Inside
was a pipe bomb, one of three that were found that day. Police said they
had been called to deal with 15 other pipe bombs throughout the
city in the last week. They've arrested 19 suspects, they say.
On Friday, Aristide visited the sites where pipe bomb explosions killed
a 7-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy. He kissed the ground in both
places and exhorted Haitians to vote. In a television appearance that
day, he promised Haitians that he will bring peace if elected.
''After 200 years of political and economic violence, we have decided
to choose peace,'' Aristide said in the broadcast, urging Haitians to
vote. ''Too much misery, too much insecurity, too much bloodshed. Enough
is enough.'' Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis blamed the leadership
of several opposition parties for the recent deaths, linking the
opposition to explosions that wounded dozens of others.
Alexis said the bombings were part of a campaign of terror, devised to
panic Haitians so that they would stay home rather than cast ballots for
Aristide, who is expected to prevail over four unknown candidates.
Official results are expected Tuesday, but celebrations might start
much sooner, because Aristide is likely to dominate the vote.
The prime minister refused to name the bombing suspects, but said they
will be brought before a judicial commission for questioning. ''We have
the names of these people, people who used to say they are part of the
people,'' Alexis said. He urged Haitians not be intimidated.
A coalition of opposition parties has urged a boycott of today's
elections after unsuccessfully seeking an agreement from
the government, controlled by Aristide's Family Lavalas party, to
establish an independent electoral council and to delay
the elections. The opposition, whose boycott raises questions about the
legitimacy of the process, has accused the Lavalas government of being
behind the violence. Others have suggested that hard-core supporters of
the Haitian military, which was disbanded by Aristide when he took
office in 1991, are responsible for the violence.
NO U.S. OBSERVERS
The United States, which along with the Organization of American
States, has tried to negotiate a settlement between Lavalas and the
opposition, is not sending election observers. However, Global Exchange,
a U.S.-based liberal group, is sending 25 observers; CARICOM, an
organization of Caribbean countries, is sending five. Lack of
international support for the election will have a critical
economic effect on the country, with the United States and others
prepared to withhold million of dollars in needed aid because the vote
is considered illegitimate. On election eve, there were few signs of
political campaigning and little traffic on Port-au-Prince streets.
Teams of volunteers spent the day transporting ballots and
other material to the polling stations throughout the capital.
Every truck leaving storage facilities was accompanied by members of
the Haitian police. Election supervisors expect a high turnout today.
''Everything's in place,' said Macadou Medard, one of the electoral
board's nine members. He expects a 60 percent turnout, in what is
expected to give Aristide a mandate for the next five years. ''We're set
to go.'' Two days before the electoral council ended its voter
registration drive, Medard said 123,000 Haitians had signed up to vote,
in addition to the 800,000 already on the rolls.
Billboards were among the few indications of an upcoming election.
Aristide's face and his outstretched arms greeted passersby. On some
billboards, in bold letters, were the words: ''Security, security,
security.'' On others: ''Haitians are the hope of Haiti. Alphonse says
he believes in that message. ''If someone else wants to become a leader,
all he has to do is give people the kind of respect that Aristide has
given the poorest among us,'' he said, as he swept the street. ''Now I
have hope. I have hope that the poorest among us can become something, a
teacher, a police officer, anything he wants. I didn't have that hope
before. That's why I'm going to vote.''