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6038: Aristide, Waiting for Tally, Delays Claiming Presidency (fwd)
November 28, 2000 NY TIMES
Aristide, Waiting for Tally, Delays Claiming Presidency
By DAVID GONZALEZ NY TIMES
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 27 — Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the once and
all-but-future president of Haiti, acted very much the chief of state
today as he emphasized the need to unite all Haitians —including
opponents who boycotted the presidential election on Sunday — to work
for his program of national peace and development.While hundreds of his
Lavalas Party supporters snaked through the capital's streets in a
jubilant noontime victory dance, Mr. Aristide did not declare himself
president, insisting that he would wait until an electoral council
announced the results in a few days. But during a rare news conference
at his Aristide Foundation for Democracy, Mr. Aristide, who became
Haiti's first democratically elected president in 1990 because of the
efforts of many who now oppose him, acknowledged that he could not
overlook the opposition. "I am not going to play the winner to
humiliate the losers," said Mr.Aristide, who was opposed by several
unknown candidates. "No.We will cultivate dialogue because we are
Haitians first. We have to look beyond our differences. There is one
Haiti." Mr. Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, began his news
conference with a moment of silence for those who died in decades
of struggle. He insisted that, despite his opponents' fears that Haiti
had become a one-party state led by him, Haiti would never slide
back into dictatorship as it has during much of its nearly 200 years.
"It is clear the government will have to reflect openness of mind if
we want peace for Haiti, for all Haitians without distinction," he said.
"We want to build Haiti with Haitians who want to devote themselves to
Mr. Aristide expressed satisfaction with the turnout on Sunday,
although he deferred any estimate of voter turnout to the electoral
council, which said last night that turnout was 60.5 percent, slightly
above the turnout last May for legislative and local elections, which
gave an overwhelming but disputed majority to Lavalas. News
accounts placed the turnout as low as 10 percent in many areas.
Election workers inside a cavernous warehouse at an industrial park
near the airport began tallying vote sheets from the capital. At
midday, about a dozen workers sat at one table poring over the
sheets, while many more sat on plastic crates waiting for tables and
chairs to arrive.
About the same time, hundreds of young people circled the streets
around the Presidential Palace proclaiming Mr. Aristide the victor,
much in the same way signs had gone up overnight saying in Creole
"He is the President of the People." "We would die with this guy,"
said Daniel Frantz. "Whoever is not with the people will argue with
him. Aristide decided to help all Haitians about security, to give
food, jobs and electricity. After Aristide, everything will be all
right." Mr. Aristide would succeed his handpicked successor, René
Préval, who had been president since 1996 and was prevented by law from
running for a consecutive second term.
In Washington, the State Department said that while it would
continue to assist the Haitian people, the United States would not
work directly with the Haitian government until it addressed the
irregularities from last May's election."Responsibility for remedying
electoral flaws still resides with the Haitian authorities," said Philip
T. Reeker, deputy State Department spokesman. "Low voter turnout and
pre-election violence are strong indicators of the need for
reconciliation among all sectors of Haitian society. We urge all
Haitians to respect the rule of law and to work together to strengthen
democracy and improve the well-being of the Haitian people."
Today, Mr. Aristide echoed the explanations of the electoral council
when he said that the scenes of few people at the polls obscured a
strategy that was spontaneously embraced by Haitians who
remembered the massacre that stopped the 1987 elections. In the
week before the vote, more than a dozen pipe bombs exploded in
"What I'd like to point out is the intelligence of the Haitian people,"
he said. "They remember well 1987 as there were bombs. They
decided to change tactics. That was a tactic when people decided to
vote yesterday. Two or three went to vote while two or three stayed
outside to see there was nothing." He placed a similar spin on the
opposition's election boycott, which they had announced as a way of
withhold legitimacy from his government. Opposition leaders today
continued to call the elections a "masquerade" and said they would not
recognize his presidency. Mr. Aristide said the opposition was an
"indispensable" partner in building democracy in Haiti.
"We are in a learning process about how to build a democratic
society," he said. "I think it is a good thing we can see different
points of view like those who participated in elections and those
who did not. From a democratic point, I view that as a golden
opportunity for Haiti to learn about democratic society."