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6006: Haiti Opposition Challenges Aristide (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Monday November 27 4:17 PM ET Haiti Opposition Challenges Aristide 
By MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press Writer 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Opposition parties that boycotted
Haiti's presidential vote claimed Monday that near-certain victor
Jean-Bertrand Aristide has no mandate to govern because most Haitians
did not vote.Opposition leader Herve Denis said the coalition of all
major opposition parties that urged voters to shun the polls would
create ``a peaceful alternative'' to the government of Aristide and his
Lavalas Family party. Denis, a former ally of Aristide, refused to
elaborate. But it seemed Haiti's floundering democracy could remain
locked in a fight for power that has stymied development and foreign aid
and left many Haitians as poor and hungry as ever. The electoral
council, which opponents charge is loaded with Aristide supporters,
disputed claims of a low turnout and said 60.5 percent of  more than 4
million registered voters participated. In some areas, they said, every
registered voter participated.``They are hallucinating,'' Denis
countered. ``The election was illegitimate. Aristide does not have a
mandate to govern. The people's abstention means they refuse to be
governed by Lavalas.'' One of Aristide's supporters offered an olive
branch to opponents. ``We want peace. We want the opposition to have
peace of mind. We  need them. Things are going to get better now,'' said
Michel Odin, leading about 100 revelers in a victory celebration.
  Aristide confronts a mammoth task in keeping his election pledge of
 ``Peace of mind, peace in the belly'' in this Caribbean nation, where
most of the 8 million people are unemployed and illiterate.
Haiti's traditional aid donors - the United States, France, Canada, the
European Union (news - web sites) and the Organization of American
States - have warned that a disputed presidential election could raise
questions about the legitimacy of Aristide's government. Donors
threatened to cut aid after a hotly disputed vote count in legislative
elections in May.
But in a sign the international community was prepared to give Aristide
a chance, United Nations (news - web sites) spokesman Fred Eckhard      
said Monday: ``We're glad (the elections) went ahead as planned and   
that there was relatively little violence.'' The U.S. State Department
did not comment Monday on Aristide's  apparent victory. Instead,
spokesman Phillip Reeker noted the United  States did not send observers
because the Haitian government had not addressed ``serious
irregularities'' from earlier legislative voting.Aristide's party was
expected to make a clean sweep of nine Senate seats contested on Sunday,
giving the party all but one seat in the Senate and 80 percent of seats
in the House of Assembly. Opposition parties have boycotted the process
since May, charging it was rigged to ensure Aristide's victory. That
made Aristide's victory a foregone conclusion, as he ran against six
unknowns who were too afraid to campaign. Meanwhile, in New York, which
has a large Haitian community, calls flooded in to the 24-hour Haitian
radio station Radio Soleil. Station manager Ricot Dupui said most
callers expressed support for Aristide. ``The general feeling is that
Lavalas has been vindicated, because the international community
predicted that violence would take over, Dupui said.
 While traditional donor countries refused to fund Haiti's election or
send observers, a group called the International Coalition of
Independent Observers said its 25-member team did monitor the process.
Aristide, Haiti's first freely elected president, was toppled in a 1991
military coup and restored to power after a U.S.-led invasion in 1994.
Forced out in 1996 by a constitutional ban on consecutive terms, he
handed power to his hand-picked successor, Rene Preval.
 After Sunday's vote, ballots were stored in metal shipping containers
 overnight, said Anthony Emmanuel, logistics manager of the Electoral
 Council. Preliminary results were expected Tuesday, he said. Any
complaints must be lodged within three days, so an official result was
expected Friday.