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Date: Sat, 8 Apr 95 10:38 EET
Message-Id: <9504080836.AA03709@gn.apc.org>
Sender: misa-news@wn.apc.org
From: Inter Press Service Harare <ipshre@gn.apc.org>
Subject: HAITI-POLITICS: Electoral Council under fire

Electoral Council under fire

By Ives Marie Chanel, IPS, 8 April 1995

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Apr 7 (IPS) -- The body responsible for organising Haiti's legislative, municipal and local elections is being accused of showing bias as preparations continue for municipal and local elections on June 4.

Critics say the favourable attitude shown by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) towards leftwing parties betray its favourable regard for Lavalas Political Platform which is said to support President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Even so, Haiti's leftwing parties have been wracked by internal wranglings - even as the right strengthens itself by forging an alliance of 12 political parties.

That has not reduced the harshness of rightwing charges about the extent of Electoral Council bias. This week Idly Cameau, a delegate on the Electoral Council representing the National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD), accused the council of planning to place polling booths under the control of members of the Lavalas Politial Organisation.

FNCD is a left-wing coalition which had supported Aristide's candidacy for president at the 1990 elections, but is now critical of the president.

At a press conference, Cameau critiised the sale of numerous voting cards with the complicity of the CEP and the revocation of officials in charge of voter registration offices by people close to the Electoral Council itself.

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide must take a position on this matter if he doesn't want to be a puppet in the hands of the manipulators, said Cameau. He said the FNCD would boycott the elections if nothing was done to eliminate such irregularities.

For its part, the Haitian Revolutionary Progressive Nationalist Party (PANPRA-Social Democrat) lashed the Lavalas Political Platform and the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) for seizing control of the management of the elections. He said the council was corrupt from top to bottom.

The PANPRA will take part in supervising and counting the votes only provided the CEP undertakes to transform the municipal election offices into truly representative structures, declared party leader Serge Gilles.

And the social-democratic Party of the National Congress of Democratic Movements (CONACOM-Social Democrat) denounced the use of state property by members of the government for the benefit of the Lavalas Political Platform.

General secretary of CONACOM, Victor Benoit, cited the broadcast by the national radio station of a song containing slogans in favour of this political party. The same song was composed and sung by Manno Charlemagne, the Lavalas candidate for mayor of Port-au-Prince.

The Assembly of Progressive National Democrats (RDNP) and the Movement for the Installation of Democracy in Haiti (MIDH- rightist) both expressed serious reservations in mid-March on the actions being taken by the CEP.

These two parties had in fact denounced the partisan formation of the Departmental Election Offices (BED) and the lack of transparency in the functioning of the electoral administration itself.

Throughout the country voters are expressing their discontent with the way the voter registration offices have been located, some scarcely visible in the constituencies, and often very far from their places of residence.

The CEP has admitted the existence of irregularities in the electoral process, acknowledging that the president of a registration bureau was surprised with more than 200 voting cards in his possession.

But the Council says it has put in place a system of strict surveillance of the voting process and demanded its detractors produce evidence to support their charges.

Monday the president of the CEP, Anselme Remy, complained about the administrative difficulties the Council has run into with the United Nations in trying to deblock funds destined to finance the Haitian election machinery.

He also complained of the decision made by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to give the contract for printing the ballots to a firm based in the United States.

I have written to the USAID to protest this decision. But our state of dependence on the Americans has obliged us to accept this fact, declared Remy.

He noted that these elections were being financed six percent by the Haitian government and 50 percent by the American government. In 1990 the Haitian government had financed 60 percent of the cost of the elections of that year.

From the start of voter registration two weeks ago, potential electors appeared unenthusiastic about the the approaching elections. None the less, the CEP simply does not have the funds to mount a campaign of information and civic education to motivate the population to take an interest in the polls.

The country's main trade union federations plan to actively encourage their 800,000 members to register their names on the electoral lists. Lise Marie Dejean, Minister of the Feminine Condition, Wednesday invited women, who account for 53 percent of the population, to register or to stand as candidates in the coming elections.