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From meisenscher@igc.org Tue Dec 26 11:25:05 2000
Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2000 20:57:37 -0600 (CST)
From: Michael Eisenscher >meisenscher@igc.org>
Article: 111759
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
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Haitian Election Unfolds

By Jonathan Nack, in Haïti Progrès,
29 Novembre - 5 Décembre 2000

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 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 roughly 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 BVs 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 from voting.

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 a free- agent spokesman, 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 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 suicide.

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 and you then you split.

Secondly, the people developed their own strategy and, in conjunction with the police and the vigilance brigades, they prevented the terrorists from creating trouble. 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 victims.

Meanwhile, Washington, with amusing hypocrisy, charged that the Nov. 26 elections were unacceptable because it arrogantly 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 of 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.