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6014: After Haitian, vote Aristide denies he will become a dictator , (fwd)
From: Nancy Dorsinville <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Tue, 28 Nov 2000 01:15:43
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is widely
believed to have won a weekend presidential election that was boycotted by
all major opponents, held his first news conference in years, and denied
opposition claims that he would squelch democracy in Haiti.
Becoming yet another Haitian dictator "is not on my agenda," he promised,
and said opposition politicians would be welcome in his Cabinet.
"There will be a place for everyone in my government," Aristide said
Monday at his first news conference since 1994. "To have a peaceful Haiti,
the opposition is indispensable. ... It is part of our democratic fate."
Aristide, a fiery former priest who was Haiti's first freely elected
president in 1990, did not declare victory in Sunday's vote, but he spoke
as if he had won the presidency. A preliminary result was expected
Opposition parties that boycotted the presidential vote, meanwhile,
claimed that Aristide has no mandate to govern because most Haitians did
not vote. They also charged that ballot boxes were stuffed in Sunday's
Opposition leader Herve Denis said Monday that an opposition coalition
would create "a peaceful alternative" to the government of Aristide and
his Lavalas Family party.
Denis 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.
Aristide described the election as a victory for democracy.
"We observed a huge majority of the Haitian people yesterday expressing
their right through their vote," he said. "I am ready to hear what the
electoral council will give as a result."
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."
Aristide confronts a mammoth task in keeping his election pledge, "Peace
of mind, peace in the belly." Most of the 8 million people in this
impoverished Caribbean nation are unemployed and illiterate.
Haiti's traditional aid donors _ the United States, France, Canada, the
European Union 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, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Monday: "We're glad (the
elections) went ahead as planned and that there was relatively little
The U.S. State Department did not comment on Aristide's apparent victory
but noted the United States did not send observers because the Haitian
government had not addressed "serious irregularities" from May legislative
The Organization of American States took a similar line and added that
proceeding with the elections despite the political crisis "does not alter
the need to ensure the broad political representation and citizen
participation critical to the development of Haitian democracy."
Aristide indicated he was open to foreign investment, saying he wanted to
involve every sector in bringing peace to a nation ravaged by "200 years
of economic and social violence."
Aristide will face no opposition in the legislature, where his party was
expected to make a clean sweep of nine Senate seats contested Sunday,
giving his Lavalas Family party all but one seat in the Senate and 80
percent of seats in the House of Assembly. All remaining seats are held by
independents, with no other major political party represented.
Opposition parties have boycotted the process since May, charging it was
rigged to ensure Aristide's victory and one-party rule in Haiti. That made
Aristide's victory inevitable, as he ran against six unknowns who were too
afraid to campaign.
Haiti's history has long been darkened by dictatorships. Successive
revolutions, each with its autocratic leaders, plagued the country after
independence from France in 1804. Beginning in 1957, Francois "Papa Doc"
Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" ruled the country by terror.
There were efforts toward democracy after Jean-Claude Duvalier fled to
France in 1986. However, Aristide, Haiti's first freely elected president,
was toppled in a 1991 military coup and restored to power only after a
U.S.-led invasion in 1994.
Forced out in 1996 by a constitutional ban on consecutive terms, Aristide
handed power to his hand-picked successor, Rene Preval, then ran again in
this year's vote.
At Monday's news conference, Haitian journalists asked some telling
questions that Aristide did not answer, for example, how he proposed to
rein in street thugs who say they work for Lavalas and keep fearful people
off the streets at night; or why he had been distancing himself from
people who thought they were close to him.
"Reassure me that you are not putting yourself on a pedestal," one
Aristide responded first to Haitian journalists, in Creole, while
international reporters listened in. Then he asked the Haitians to leave
the sweaty, overcrowded room and invited the foreign press into his
His demeanor changed: To the Haitians he had preached as a priest to his
flock; to the foreigners, he became Aristide the statesman, suave, urbane,
enjoying a laugh when a photographer sat on a glass table that shattered.