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6063; Aristide declared winner of Haiti's presidential elections (fwd)
Aristide declared winner of Haiti's presidential elections
By MICHAEL NORTON Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- (AP) -- Former President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide won re-election with nearly 92 percent of the vote, the
electoral council announced Wednesday. The runner-up, Arnold Dumas, had
just 2.4 percent of the vote in Sunday's elections and the other five
candidates garnered even less. Candidates have three days to contest the
results. Aristide's Lavalas Family party also made a clean sweep of nine
Senate seats that also were contested Sunday, giving it all but one seat
in the upper house. It won 80 percent of all seats in the House of
Assembly in May, June and July legislative elections that opponents
charged were rigged to help Aristide preside over a one-party state.
Aristide confronts a mammoth task as he prepares to take power in the
hemisphere's poorest country for a second time, following an election
boycotted by all major opposition parties amid charges of intimidation
and irregularities. He will be hobbled by the distrust of world leaders,
the desperation of his people, and a list of enemies equal to his
growing reputation as a ruthless political manipulator.
Across Haiti, life returned to what passes for normal on Wednesday,
with millions beginning their daily search for food. Schools opened and
buses were running again, after many stores had shut and schools closed
amid a rash of election-related bombings that killed two children and
injured at least 17 people. ``Now we hope the cost of living will go
down,'' added motor mechanic Gregory Diverson, 18. The cost of staple
food prices has gone up 50-60 percent in the past six months, but
average wages have remained the same at about dlrs 400 a year.
But the mystery of who was responsible for the bombings has not been
resolved, with each side blaming the other. The electoral council
claimed that about 61 percent of the 4.8 million voters had
cast ballots, but independent news reports and opposition leaders said
turnout was much lower. Opposition politician Evans Paul charged that
ballot boxes had been stuffed and tally sheets tampered with to increase
the turnout figure. In many polling stations, lines were small and some
stations closed hours early. ``If people didn't vote, it's not because
they were scared to. They just don't believe in voting for hollow
promises,'' said rice farmer Auguste Pierre. In a demonstration of the
intimidation the opposition accuses Aristide's Lavalas
Family party, a report emerged Wednesday that pro-Aristide thugs had
raided a church on the eve of the elections in the small town of
Cavaillon and broke up a meeting of a tourism association.
The Rev. Yves Edmonde said in a statement that the town's newly elected
mayor and an assemblyman -- who both support Aristide -- led the group
of ``heavily-armed Lavalas street thugs'' that invaded the church,
overturned the pews, punched people and threatened to burn down the
church if any more meetings were held before or during the vote.
Lavalas leaders were not immediately available for comment. Amnesty
International, however, said earlier this month that it was ``alarmed
at the appearance of armed groups attached to municipalities'' -- most
of which are controlled by Lavalas.
Aristide became Haiti's first freely elected leader in 1990, ending
nearly 200 years of dictatorship. After only seven months in office, he
was ousted by the army in a bloody coup. The military government
unleashed a reign of terror until 1994, when U.S. troops invaded and
restored Aristide. Constitutionally barred from serving a second
consecutive term as president, Aristide reluctantly handed power to
successor Rene Preval.