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From editor@haiti-progres.com Fri Jan 14 07:57:00 2000
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2000 23:35:26 -0600 (CST)
From: Haiti Progrès <editor@haiti-progres.com>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 17:42 1/5/2000
Article: 86673
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
X-UIDL: 724d0118704a463dfe2a5754119d315c

Election trouble already

Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 17, no. 42, 5-11 January 2000

Barely had the last of the candidates for the elections scheduled for Mar. 19 finished registering on Dec. 12 than hostilities broke out among the contending political parties.

Parties have charged and counter-charged each other with taking control of the BEDs and BECs (respectively the Departmental and Communal Electoral Bureaus), which will supervise the vote.

The personnel of the Electoral Bureaus are appointed by the nine- member Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). They will employ supervisors, presently in training, who will arrange places for voter registration and polling, supervise the registration process and the vote itself, and be obligated to follow up on any election irregularities reported by observers or participants.

Washington's former proxy party, now discarded, the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL), was the first to cry foul last month. It charged that the CEP was packing the BEDs and BECs with partisans of the Lavalas Family, the party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the Espace de Concertation, a center- right front with the implicit backing of Washington. Other tiny far-right parties piled in behind the OPL's accusation.

CEP counselor Irma Rateau rebuffed the complaints, saying that the electoral law gave the council the power to pick whomever it wanted without the interference of parties. There is no question about it, the political parties cannot involve themselves in the matter of the choice of supervisors, Rateau said. Nobody has given the Lavalas Family nor the Espace de Concertation any kind of priority.

Meanwhile, the Espace, to divert attention from itself and gain sympathy from the other parties, has complained that its partisans are being shut out of the ranks of supervisors. There has to be an improvement in the way supervisors are selected, declared Evans Paul, an Espace leader, because the people the CEP is choosing as supervisors come mostly from only one political sector. We would like to see more balance and we are not only asking that on behalf of the Espace de Concertation, but we would ask that the CEP take into consideration the reactions and demands of most of the political parties involved in the process which feel they have been wronged by how the choice is made.

The one political sector which Paul, and other right-wing politicians, have been targeting is the Lavalas Family, and any other parties which might be of a progressive orientation. Ironically, the progressive parties seem more likely to be the victim of an electoral coup d'état in March, as has repeatedly warned the National Popular Party (PPN), which has pulled out of the elections.

Proof of this came during the last two weeks from Haiti's most western department, the Grand'Anse, where pre-election violence flared after Ernso Saint-Clair, the president of the Grand'Anse BED, openly sided with the Espace against the progressive grassroots organization Korega and the party affiliated to it, the Eskamp.

For years, Korega has been the most popular and powerful organization in the Grand'Anse. Thus it was shocking when the BED and BEC disqualified Georges Simon, Eskamp's candidate for mayor in the town of Anse d'Hainault, on the pretext that he was calling for violence. Outraged, the population of the town rose up and burned the BEC's vehicle and ransacked their office. A confusing series of rumors and charges have ensued, and the area still remains tense.

I think that the authorities of the BED and the BEC of the Grand'Anse have purposefully created confusion. That is why they refuse to relate facts as they in fact occurred, declared former deputy Kelly Bastien, another Eskamp candidate. They have deliberately chosen to emphasize the reaction of the population in response to an action. They had decided to disqualify Georges Simon because he said on the airwaves that he was entering the elections to confront the Espace de Concertation. But in just the same way, the Espace had said that it will confront the Lavalas and even the OPL.

Simon made no call to violence, Bastien said, and there is no justification for his disqualification.

Meanwhile, according to Father Joachim Samedi, the curate of the St. Helene parish in Jérémie and a Korega leader, a rural-based SWAT team repressed the demonstrations in Anse d'Hainault with such brutality that one woman, a certain Mme. Jeudi, was killed. He holds the CEP responsible.

The first step toward guaranteeing a durable climate of peace for the electoral process is to reform the BED and the BECs [in the Grand'Anse], Father Samedi said. If the CEP, when choosing the BED, had listened to the demands of the department's organized sector, Madame Jeudi would not have died under the clubs of some members of the UDMO (Departmental Unit for the Maintenance of Order)... It is sad the way the CEP sent a SWAT team to repress the population of Anse d'Hainault for a car that got burned and a CEP office that got trashed. We lost a lot more than the CEP. They cannot replace Mme. Jeudi. But they can buy another car. We hope that this time, the CEP will have the wisdom to apply a reasonable solution which everybody is waiting for; the BED and the BECs do not have the population's trust.

Indeed, in Anse d'Hainault, the direction of the BEC does seem rather compromised. According to Bastien, Roselaure Aubourg, the president of the Anse d'Hainault BEC, is the niece of one of the mayoral candidates of the Espace de Concertation. She even lives at the house of this uncle. It is a clear conflict of interest.

A Commission of Inquiry, with CEP president Leon Manus at its head, tried to make its way to Anse d'Hainault to investigate the situation there, but never arrived due to a car accident en route, Bastien reported on Dec. 31. In the meantime, there is really a tense situation there because the population is waiting for the visit of the CEP and their final decision on the case of George Simon, Bastien said.

Meanwhile, voter registration is due to begin on Jan. 10 with the distribution of photo-ID electoral cards. Although CEP president Manus declared on Dec. 30 that the population should go to the registration stations en masse on Jan. 10, CEP spokesman Macajoux Médard sounded a cautionary note the same day. We have met many problems in training the supervisors, he said, so the training has taken a lot longer than we anticipated. He also claimed that the parties had been late in turning in certain paperwork. As a result he said it is too early to say now whether or not we will meet the deadline of Jan. 10. It's possible, but we really can't say.

If there is a delay, one can be sure that it will be seized upon by the most unpopular candidates, mostly from the ultra-right, to issue more complaints and pathetic ultimatums. At the same time, the Espace de Concertation seems to be reinforcing its predominance in BEDs and BECs around the country.

Meanwhile, the popular organization Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan joined the PPN in shunning participation in the elections because we have the feeling that the elections are being controlled by the international institutions, said Sylvain Jean, a spokesman for the group. We also feel that the international community has a much bigger stake in these elections than do the Haitian people.