September 20, 2000

Haiti opens campaign for presidential election

                 PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) -- The campaign for Haiti's presidency and nine
                 senate seats began Wednesday in an election expected to see Jean-Bertrand
                 Aristide returned to power.

                 Political analysts expect the Nov. 26 election to return Aristide, a former Roman
                 Catholic priest who in 1991 took office as Haiti's first freely elected president, to
                 the presidency after a five-year absence.

                 "I officially announce the opening of registration for candidates in the Nov. 26
                 presidential and senatorial elections," said Ernst Mirville, president of Haiti's
                 electoral council, at a news conference to kick off the campaign.

                 Elections officials said voter registration would take place between Oct. 6 and
                 Oct. 30. President Rene Preval issued a separate statement urging Haitians to

                 Haiti was forging ahead with the national vote for the presidency and senate seats
                 in the face of international disapproval of a tainted May 21 election that resulted in
                 an overwhelming victory for Aristide's party Lavalas Family.

                 International observers said 10 senate seats were improperly awarded to Lavalas
                 Family candidates after first- round voting because elections officials
                 miscalculated the winning vote percentages. The seats should have gone to
                 second-round runoffs, the observers said.

                 The international community and Haitian opposition parties criticized the election
                 and refused to participate in second-round balloting.

                 Aristide, who was ousted in a military coup eight months after taking the
                 presidency in 1991 and then was restored by a U.S.-led invasion force three years
                 later, is expected to score an easy victory in the November election, giving his
                 party control of the presidency and the legislature.

                 Major opposition parties have vowed to boycott the November vote.

                 During his news conference, Mirville criticized the opposition parties, calling
                 them "puppet opposition."

                 "This is the most repugnant elite," he said.

                 The Clinton administration said two weeks ago that it would not send observers
                 or $20 million in foreign aid to Haiti for the November elections unless the Haitian
                 government reexamined skewed results from the May 21 vote.

                 The United States also condemned Haiti for using the same electoral council that
                 oversaw the flawed May poll to organize the fall vote.

                 The Haitian government has given the electoral council $1 million to organize the
                 elections, according to Haitian government officials.

                 "Despite the absence of international assistance, we're moving forward with our
                 own money and our own means," said Mirville, who became president of the
                 council after his predecessor Leon Manus fled into exile in June, fearing that his
                 life was in jeopardy.

                 "Long live free, fair and transparent elections," Mirville said.

                    Copyright 2000 Reuters.