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5986: Polls close in Haiti (fwd)
Sunday, 26 November, 2000, 23:43 GMT
Polls close in Haiti
The atmosphere at polling stations was tense Voting has ended in Haiti's
presidential election, with the former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
almost certain to win a second term in power. Only three unknown
candidates stood against Mr Aristide, with the main opposition
party boycotting the polls because it said they would be unfair.
In the light of this, diplomats say that international recognition of Mr
Aristide's government will depend on voter turnout.However there are
widely conflicting reports of the numbers who have taken part.A series
of bombs placed both in the days before and during the vote may have
kept many voters away.
Officially at least, the electoral council estimates that the turnout
could be as high as 60% or 70%. But the few independent observers
said the huge majority of Haitians stayed at home.And the BBC's
correspondent in Haiti,Peter Greste, says the Polling stations he saw
reported very slow voting throughout the day.At least three bombs
exploded in the capital, Port au Prince, within hours of polling
stations opening on Sunday. A 35-year old man was injured in one blast,
but a spate of such attacks in the past few days has left two people
dead and 17 injured. On Saturday, police discovered four crude
home-made devices in the capital. According to the authorities, they may
have been planted to deter people from voting.
The bombs, they say, are intended to persuade voters to stay away from
the polls to tarnish the legitimacy of the election. However the
opposition blames the government for the bombs.It maintains that Mr
Aristide's Famille Lavalas party is simply trying to set up an
excuse for cancelling the poll if the results do not go its way.
It has boycotted the polls, accusing Famille Lavalas of tampering with
the results of the parliamentary elections earlier this year.
"This is not an election", said opposition leader Evans Paul. "This is
a nomination." Despite these claims, our correspondent says Mr
Aristide's massive support from Haiti's vast underclass of poor makes it
hard to imagine anyone who could seriously challenge him for the job.
The opposition alleges that Mr Aristide and his party have used
electoral fraud, violence and intimidation to hold on to power.
Famille Lavalas says its success reflects the fact that nobody
understands ordinary Haitians like Mr Aristide, a charismatic former
priestf rom the slums.'He's going to put peace in our bellies," said
one voter, echoing an Aristide campaign slogan. "Once he's back in power
we'll all be OK."