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From editor@haiti-progres.com Wed Jul 19 13:49:00 2000
Date: Wed, 12 Jul 2000 22:52:10 -0500 (CDT)
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Subject: This Week in Haiti 18:17 7/12/00
Article: 100310
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With second round, Haiti blows off foreign bluster

Haiti Progress, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 18, no. 17, 12-18 July 2000

There is a Creole proverb: The dogs bark, the caravan passes through.

That pretty much sums up the past week in Haiti. Despite a constant cacophony of complaints from followerless politicians and their foreign political allies, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) held nationwide run-offs for municipal and legislative posts on Jul. 9 with a minimum of violence and confusion.

There was also a minimum of participation, ranging between 10% and 40% in different regions of the country, down from over 60% participation in the first round held on May 21. Traditionally, the turn-out for second rounds in Haiti has always been low. The inertia was compounded this time by the lack of any voter mobilization for the runoffs and the assumption by many voters that they had already succeeded in voting in the Lavalas Family (FL), the party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, into office. Indeed, in the first round, the FL had already captured 16 of 19 available Senate seats, 26 of 83 Deputy seats, 89 of 115 mayoral posts, and 321 of 485 town and rural councils.

But many runoffs were held, despite a boycott declared by the leaders of opposition parties. Most local opposition candidates renounced the pull-out directive, revealing motley allegiances. We prepared for these elections using our own means to campaign, we wish at all costs to defend the cause of our supporters and no one can prevent us [from participating], said candidate Denis St. Fort of the Espace de Concertation, according to the Haitian Press Agency. Only six out of over 90 opposition candidates running publicly asked the CEP to be disqualified, and they did so only verbally, not in writing, the CEP's Operations Director Luciano Pharaon told the AP. (Runoffs will be held later in a few scattered localities like the Grand'Anse, Borgne, Port Margot, Cayes-Jacmel, and Marigot).

A boycott by electoral observers was also thwarted. Although the U.S.-aligned leadership of the National Council of Electoral Observers (CNO) said it would not participate in the second round, several groups making up the electoral coaliton did, including KOZEPEP, UNIRED, CEDOM, and the Haitian Human Rights Platform.

The OAS Electoral Observation mission also abstained from witnessing the elections because the CEP would not follow its dictates about how to calculate the percentages of some winning Senators. Last week, the CEP issued a lengthy public report explaining the logic and methodology behind its calculations.

In another electoral skirmish, Departmental Electoral Bureau (BED) directors, all opposition appointees, resigned in the North, Center, Grand'Anse, and Northwest departments.

Despite a corporate press campaign aimed at vilifying it, the government of President René Préval has remained rather tolerant in the face of growing provocations from right-wing parties which have huddled themselves into a new alliance called the Democratic Convergence. We must overthrow this lumpen government, shouted Reynold Georges, a Convergence spokesman, when the government swore in three new members to the CEP on Jul.7 to replace those that resigned three weeks ago (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 18 No. 14, 6/21/00). The Convergence advocates the Zero Option, which calls for uprooting Préval and the CEP and holding new presidential elections without Aristide.

Such verbal aggressivity may be linked to the spike in violence in the days preceding the elections. For example, in Cornillon, armed right-wing partisans attacked Franckel Norvil, an elected rural council member (ASEC) from the FL, hacking his face, ears, and arms with machetes, leaving him in critical condition. At the same time, they wounded another FL party member Raoul Joseph. Meanwhile, on the Ile à Vâche, an island off the southern city of Les Cayes, opposition partisans killed two FL members and burned down several houses, according to FL Senator-elect Yvon Neptune.

During election day, some trouble-makers threw up burning-tire barricades in the Artibonite, telling people to stay home; an opposition candidate reportedly burned some election materials in Grande Saline; some election observers were roughed up in Marchand Dessalines; there were some scuffles in the Northeast. The day of and after elections, police arrested about 30 people for disrupting the elections. But generally, the country was peaceful.

Ironically the picture one gets from the Jun. 30 U.S. Senate Concurrent Resolution 126, introduced by the infamous Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), turns the situation on its head. After a litany of opposition-inspired whereases which paint the government and FL as aggressors, the non-binding resolution condemns the electoral fraud being perpetrated against the Haitian people, commands the Haitian government to end its manipulation of the electoral process and take immediate steps to reverse the fraudulent results announced by the remaining [CEP] members, and urges the Organization of American States (OAS) to consider joint actions by its members states to bring about a return to democracy in Haiti.

When asked about the resolution on his Jul. 5 return from the three-day CARICOM summit in Trinidad, Préval said I don't have to respond to what the U.S. Congress says. He also pointed out that a democracy is not just elections, but the setting in place of institutions and the respect for the separation of powers established by the Haitian Constitution, which in the case of elections makes the [CEP] responsible to write the electoral law, apply it, and be the judge of last resort.

His words were echoed the following day by Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis who said that the U.S. Congress is not a Haitian state institution. Alexis also scolded certain Haitian politicians who, when the people decide not to turn to them anymore, go looking for the support of foreigners so that can speak badly about the country and help them to continue squeezing it.

The message was articulated even more clearly in a Jul. 7 demonstration called by the Coordinating Initiative of Popular Organizations (KIOP), in which about 2000 people marched by the U.S., Canadian, and French Embassies, and ended up at the OAS headquarters.

We are speaking directly to the international community, said one KIOP speaker, because 90% of them, in particular the U.S., is responsible for the state of the country today. Because instead of fostering unity in smaller countries, they always create division. Instead of looking for ways to help create better conditions for the people, they create more poverty. For example, they send a Haitian CIA agent [FRAPH leader Toto Constant] to be a political leader to create trouble in the country and to counteract all those people who want to work to improve the country.

Ominously, the international community shows signs of increasing their meddling, by discussing Haiti's elections in the U.N. Security Council, the planet's highest executive body. The body has no right -- in fact it is explicitly forbidden by the U.N. Charter - to intrude into a nation's internal affairs. Nonetheless, in a Jul. 10 statement the SC expressed concern with the violence during the electoral period and reports of irregularities in electoral procedures and changes occurring in the CEP.

In another Jul. 10 statement, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he wanted to urge Haitian leaders to heed the wishes of the people of Haiti, who have repeatedly expressed their desire for a return to constitutionality.

Ironically, the forces hindering the return to constitutionality are the opposition and the international community, sanctioned by Annan himself.