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6032: Haiti holds yet another election... (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Analysis: Haiti holds yet another election but  democracy looks like it
will take awhile____  UPI,WORLDNEWS Tue 28 Nov 2000 

(UPI)  If frequency of elections makes a country democratic, then
impoverished Haiti should be one of the world's leading democracies. The
Caribbean nation of slightly less than 8 million has had a dozen of   
them in the last decade; the latest last Sunday when former President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide coasted to an expected victory without any major
opposition. Yet Haiti is in more desperate shape than ever. Like        
earlier Haitian contests, this one too was flawed, devoidlargely of
international observers or technical  support. The voting was marked
with violence and possibly fraud along with the usual irregularities
and  confusion. The fraud this time did not involve stealing votes -
Aristide was running against six nobodies - but how many voters actually
turned out at the polls. Previous elections have been blotted by
minimalparticipation - as little as 5 percent. But in the Nov. 26
election, Haiti's official electoral council claims 60.5 percent went to
the polls - even before any ballots were counted - and by mere
coincidence the exact number who supposedly showed up for the May
legislative elections. The opposition and many journalists think the
total much lower, but characteristically no one can agree how low. In
truth, without a goodly number of well-trained monitors, no one will
ever know. Nor will it be learned who was responsible for the dozen pipe
bombs that went off before and during Election Day. Aristide supporters
say the opposition wanted to terrorize the population from voting. The
opposition says Aristide's party, the Lavalas, did the bombing as an
excuse for the low voter turnout. Certainly, Haiti's undermanned,       
demoralized, and increasingly corrupt, and incompetent police won't ever
find the guilty parties. This controversy is only too typical for Haiti
where the first "free" vote in 1990 after a generation of tyranny  under
"Papa Doc" Duvalier and his son followed by military rule gave Aristide
his first victory. But even in that election, there was confusion and
controversy. The official electoral count was never completed. Haiti's
election this week had no foreign technical assistance and few
international observers, thanks to last May's election. In that
controversial contest the electoral council certified winners in the
Senate race who failed to get 50 percent of the vote, according to the
United States and the Organization of  American States. Since that vote,
three members of the nine-man council have quit. One of them claimed he
did so in fear of his life from government supporters. Aristide resumes
a presidency that has been disrupted by a military coup in 1991 (he was
restored to power courtesy of an American invasion in   1994) and a
handpicked successor in 1996. But with his overwhelming majority in the
Haitian legislature  he should have no trouble later amending the
constitution and thus allow successive terms in office.     However, why
Aristide should want the job in the first place is another Haitian
mystery. Haiti has long been the poorest nation Western Hemisphere.
Today, it is on the verge of being the poorest in the world. Economic
growth has virtually ceased in the last decade. There is 80 percent
unemployment. The foreign aid which once kept the economy from total
collapse is drying up fast because Haiti - and Aristide - have refused
to accept market reforms which in time could lift the country from utter
destitution to mere poverty. Only humanitarian food aid prevents
widespread starvation. Haiti may be on the brink of catastrophe, but
Aristide, once a poor, parish priest has done well for himself in
private life. He has left the priesthood, gotten married, begot two
children, and lives on an estate in a posh Port-au-Prince     suburb.
Few have questioned how he acquired all that sudden wealth. Meanwhile,
Aristide's well-earned fear of assassination made him a scarce commodity
on the campaign trail - he made only one appearance - and the
disappearing act may well presage his future conduct in office. But
absent or not, Aristide is the single credible political leader in a
nation that has never prized institutions, but depended on the will and
whim of rulers that can only be described as characters from the Grand
Guignol. When Aristide assumes the presidential sash next February, the
president's next greatest challenge will be to improve ties with the
United States whose government-to government aid programs are on hold.
What ready money remains will be funneled through NGOs. Relations with
the Clinton administration have long deteriorated and Aristide remains
touchy about appearing to accept American tutelage. The United   
States's mishaps with its own recent election will only increase the
former priest's disdain for Washington. U.S.-Haitian relations look
likely to deteriorate even further if Texas Gov. George W. Bush,the
Republican candidate, is confirmed as president-elect. Still, without
American aid, Haiti's immediate prospects are bleak. Without economic
reform, they are nil.