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Candidates Drop Out of Haiti's Race

By Michael Norton, AP,
Friday 17 November 2000, 7:49 PM ET

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Two candidates withdrew Friday from Haiti's presidential race, accusing electoral officials of favoring former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Evans Nicolas and Paul Arthur Fleurival said that they wouldn't run in an election marred by violence, allegations of unfairness and voter apathy.

All of Haiti's major opposition parties are boycotting the Nov. 26 vote, and Aristide's race against a handful of unknowns is raising questions at home and abroad about the legitimacy of any victory. Besides Aristide, four other candidates are seeking the office.

Aristide is expected to win handily, but it could be a hollow victory if his government is not recognized by the international community, which contributes the majority of the budget for this impoverished Caribbean nation.

We want a balanced elections council, not one loaded with Aristide partisans, Nicolas said.

This election is a masquerade, said Calixte Dorisca, an independent candidate who withdrew earlier this month.

But the elections council said it was too late for candidates to withdraw because their names are already on ballots for Haiti's more than 4 million voters, council member Carlo Dupiton said.

Boycotting parties say local and legislative elections earlier this year were rigged to favor Aristide candidates, who swept more than 80 percent of seats.

The international community decried the method used to determine the victory of 10 senators from Aristide's party. In protest, the United States and the European Union (news - web sites) have threatened to withhold aid or channel it through private agencies.

Last month, the United Nations (news - web sites) turned down a Haitian government request for technical election assistance. The United States also has refused to contribute.

After decades of dictatorship, Aristide, a former slum priest, won Haiti's first free elections in a landslide in 1990. He was ousted by the army in 1991 and restored when the United States sent 20,000 troops to Haiti in 1994. In 1996, Aristide handed over to his hand-picked successor, Rene Preval, because the constitution does not allow consecutive terms of office.

In recent surveys published by the daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste, 57 percent of 400 people polled said they would not vote under current conditions, and 57 percent said the election was not credible without major opposition candidates.

A rash of attacks have also raised fears of election-day violence, though it was not clear they were politically motivated.

In the western port city of Gonaives, gunmen on a motorcycle riddled a parked and empty U.N. vehicle with bullets Thursday. In the capital Port-Au-Prince, gunmen in a pickup truck killed three and wounded seven Tuesday.