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6062: This Week in Haiti 18:37 11/29/00 (fwd)
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
November 29 - December 5, 2000
Vol. 18, No. 37
HAITIAN ELECTION UNFOLDS WITH DIGNITY AND SERENITY
Despite bombings, demobilizing propaganda, and calls to stay
home, Haitians calmly and with determination turned out in large
numbers all over Haiti on Nov. 26 to vote for a new president and
nine new senators.
Although official results were not released at press time, it is
all but certain that former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide has
been re-elected as chief of state after stepping aside five years
ago to be succeeded by René Préval, his first Prime Minister.
Aristide faced six virtually unknown challengers, three of whom
withdrew from the race at the last minute.
The Senate candidates from Aristide's party, the Lavalas Family
(FL), were also expected to win their races, mostly against
independents. If so, the FL will hold 26 of the 27 Senate seats,
and all but 9 of the 83 lower house seats. That commanding
majority should prevent the legislative gridlock which paralyzed
Haiti during Aristide's first administration, which lasted barely
eight months before he was overthrown and sent into exile by a
bloody military coup on Sep. 30, 1991. He was returned to Haiti
by a U.S. military intervention on Oct. 15, 1994 to serve out his
remaining 16 months but was again strapped and subverted by
Washington's shadow government, which all but ushered him by the
elbow from the Palace despite calls by the Haitian people for him
to serve out the three years he spent in exile.
That U.S.-enforced exit cemented the resolve of the Haitian
people to return Aristide to the presidency this year, which
explains why he scarcely had to campaign. "Imagine that after all
those years, there is such a profound communion between the
Haitian people and us that we didn't even have to go out,"
Aristide responded in a Nov. 27 press conference to a journalist
who charged that his lack of campaigning signified his
estrangement from the Haitian people.
The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) estimated, on the basis
of preliminary returns, that voter participation was about 60.5%,
roughly equal to that of parliamentary and municipal elections on
May 21. The International Coalition of Independent Observers
(ICIO) came with about the same estimate from the regions where
it's 25 observers were deployed: Jeremie: 90%; Cap-Haitien:
50-60%; Milot, near Cap-Haïtien: 70%; Gonaïves and the northwest
village of Gros Morne: 62%; Port-au-Prince: no less than 30% and
as much as 75%.
"We witnessed minor irregularities at the [voting stations] but
no widespread evidence that registered voters encountered major
problems," the ICIO announced in a Nov. 28 press conference. "The
voters appeared dignified and were imbued with a consciousness of
their role as citizens and participants in the democratic
process." The ICIO was composed of four different human-rights
groups: Pax Christi, Global Exchange, the Quixote Center, and
Witness for Peace.
"The people voted normally," reported Charles Suffrard of the
peasant organization KOZEPEP, which also deployed observers
around the country. "The Haitian people truly showed once again
that it is finished with dictatorships." In the Artibonite
region, "everybody voted," Suffrard said.
With near comic vehemence, leaders of fifteen opposition parties
huddled together in a so-called Democratic Convergence sputtered
outrage on the airwaves at what they painted as "a masquerade."
They boycotted the election and sought to convince the world that
the Haitian people had massively followed their call to abstain
"They are hallucinating; there was not even 5% participation,"
charged Hervé Denis, the former chief of staff of dictator Jean-
Claude Duvalier's finance minister, Marc Bazin, who faced
Aristide as a candidate in 1990. "The regime has failed... The
people have condemned the Lavalas power and have called for an
alternative. This alternative we [in the opposition] are going to
build together." This seems optimistic, to say the least,
considering that Denis belongs to no opposition party. This once
converted but now reverted "Jean-Claudiste" remains an opposition
free agent, despite his close ties to the Organization of
Struggling People (OPL) of Gérard Pierre-Charles. Préval
nominated him to be a compromise prime minister in 1998.
For his part, former Communist Pierre-Charles said he was
thankful that "our watchword of abstention was followed," an
assessment cheered by Ernst Colon of the right-wing Protestant
Mochrena who estimated participation "between 1% and 2%."
"Everybody who is for democracy stayed home," declared Evens Paul
of the Space of Concertation. "A small handful of enemies of
democracy went out making it clear that the people don't want the
Lavalas, less than 5%."
Perhaps the best fulminations came from Duvalier's former Labor
Minister, Hubert de Ronceray, who used to sell Haitians cane-
cutters to the Dominican government and who once banned a play of
his now-ally, K-Plim, as seditious. "This election is not
legitimate," he said. "The Haitian people don't recognize it and
will not recognize it." He said the Lavalas had committed
"I think these opposition leaders should assume the leadership in
this matter," deadpanned Ben Dupuy of the National Popular Party
(PPN) in a Nov. 27 Radio Metropole interview. "They should rally
their masses in front of the Palace to protest. They can't just
stay at home protesting over the radio." The fifteen parties in
the Convergence are so unpopular that they could only convene 250
people, from all corners of Haiti, at their rally last July in
Petit Goâve to protest their defeat in the May 21 elections.
In fact, on Nov. 26 there were not long lines of voters snaking
out of voting stations as there had been last May, and this for
two main reasons. First, "in the May 21 election there were a lot
more people to vote for," Dupuy reminded. "Voters had to choose
two senators, deputies, and then Territorial Assemblies, ASEC,
CASEC, and so on, so it took more time. But this time, you just
voted for president and one senator."
Secondly, "the people developed their own strategy and, in
conjunction with the police and the vigilance brigades, they
prevented the terrorists from creating trouble," Dupuy said. In
the days leading up to the election, ten pipe-bombs and grenades
were detonated at different times around the capital, and a
several more defused. A 15-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl were
killed in the explosions, and many others were injured. Three
bombs went off on election morning but with no casualties.
"In Nov. 1987, when the people made a voting line at Ruelle
Vaillant, they were massacred," Aristide said in his press
conference. "Recently, they saw grenades. They developed an
intelligent tactic so that they weren't voting in lines as they
had before... Instead three people would go in to vote while
three waited outside... It is a wise people who knows how to make
peace instead of allowing people who don't want peace to make
Meanwhile, Washington, with amusing hypocrisy, charged that the
Nov. 26 elections were unacceptable because it disapproved of the
CEP's sovereign vote calculations awarding 10 FL Senate
candidates first-round victories in the May 21 vote. Although
there were over 7,500 posts filled by the May election, State
Department spokesman Philip Reeker called the Senate vote dispute
a matter of "serious irregularities" which Haitian authorities
would have to "remedy" before the Washington will provide aid or
benediction. Most of the mainstream press dutifully echoed
Washington's disapproval and the opposition's teapot tempest.
The most eloquent response to all such arrogance and
disinformation came from the Haitian people themselves. Ten of
thousands poured out into the streets of Port-au-Prince and
almost all the major provincial cities on election night and the
day after to celebrate the peaceful completion of the vote and
the certain results. "We have done it again, just like in 1990,"
said one jubilant demonstrator. "But we are wiser now, and ready
for all the tricks and attacks that are now going to start."
In his press conference, Aristide extended an olive branch to the
opposition, saying that "we are going to work with everybody,
with all sectors, all Haitians who want to work together so that
there can be peace in the country, whatever your economic means
are, whatever social strata you are from, whether you are from
the city or countryside or the 10th Department (diaspora)."
Opposition leaders scoffed at the remarks as deceitful.
"From what the opposition leaders are saying, the people can see
that they are implacable," Dupuy said. "It is very clear they do
not intend to lay down their arms."
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