Haiti's Vote Shows Aristide's Supporters Are Winning Big

DESPITE widespread confusion and technical difficulties, the June 25 national election was, by international standards, the safest and most secure in Haiti's 191-year history.

Partial results released July 11 of the races for more than 2,000 local and legislative offices gives a coalition endorsed by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the Lavalas Political Platform, what looks like a sweeping victory.

The elections were the first test of democracy for this small Caribbean nation since President Aristide was restored to power by the United States in October after a 1991 coup.

Of the 83 seats in the lower house, all 16 winners who won the first round (got more than a 50- percent majority) went to Lavalas candidates. For the 18 senate seats in the upper house, five Lavalas candidates from seven departments (districts) are also winners in the first round. The second round is expected to be held in mid-August.

But many of the other parties are not happy with the results. According to election officials, half of those partisans are faithful to the No. 2 political party, the National Front for Change and Democracy, (FNCD), which took a sound beating.

The most severe blow was the anticipated defeat of FNCD incumbent Port-au-Prince Mayor Evans Paul, who many assumed would go on to be a strong contender in presidential elections to be held later this year, to popular folk-singer Manno Charlemagne.

BOTH Western and Haitian officials confirm that part of the delay in announcing the results as scheduled July 1 was tied to FNCD's threat to boycott the entire electoral process and negotiations to secure Mr. Paul's political future.

''The most disastrous thing would be if all the other parties agreed with FNCD and boycotted the thing,'' says one US official. ''If Lavalas is the only political party that recognizes these elections then they aren't credible. But if FNCD drops out and others don't, big deal.''

''For Lavalas, what's there to discuss?'' asks a foreign diplomat. ''They feel, rightfully so, that they have won overwhelmingly, and so they are reluctant to accept that elections have to be held anywhere. FNCD is fighting for their future.''

FNCD was not the only party to denounce electoral fraud. More than 20 other parties asked for the holding of partial elections and the recomposition of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), which was in charge of the elections.

''If we stayed uniquely within our principles, we would have said all elections need to be redone,'' says Micha Gaillard, National Congress of Democratic Movement's mayoral candidate for Port-au-Prince. ''But we are realistic. We're architects, and we can see how participating can help advance democracy.''

The CEP concluded that eight of the nine departments which encountered major technical difficulties will have new races on July 22 for 14 deputies and 18 mayors.

At least a dozen electoral bureaus were attacked in the days after the election, and one candidate for deputy was killed in Haiti's far west.

''We've just come out of a three-year crisis - politically, materially, even psychologically,'' says Rony Mondestin, senatorial candidate in the north with the Group for the Movement for National Reconstruction. ''We have to work together now and not try to eliminate our peers.''

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