The Miami Herald
May 23, 2000

 Early results show Aristide party win

 Haiti elections back ex-leader


 PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Preliminary evidence suggested Monday that former
 President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas Family party may be headed for a
 substantial victory in Sunday's parliamentary and local elections.

 Final results are not likely to be known for several days, but diplomats, journalists
 and international and national election observers who monitored vote counting at
 selected individual polling stations said most reflected a heavy margin for Lavalas

 One local political analyst who is not pro-Aristide had predicted that Lavalas
 would win six to nine of 19 Senate seats and 15 to 20 of the 83 seats in the lower
 chamber. He upped that assessment Monday to 12 to 14 Senate seats and 50 to
 60 in the lower chamber.

 The new parliament is expected to be seated in July, paving the way for Aristide's
 reelection to the presidency later in the year and opening the country up to foreign
 aid that has been stalled by lack of a parliament since January 1999.

 ``If the results I have yesterday from a dozen voting places are the same
 throughout the country, it means Aristide is going to be the next president of Haiti
 with a parliament in which he has a majority,'' said the Haitian analyst, who asked
 to remain anonymous.

 He added that he believed such an outcome was not the result of fraud, but the
 fact that ``the Haitian people voted overwhelmingly for [Lavalas] because they
 wanted Aristide to come back. They did not vote for the candidate.''


 As indications of the Lavalas victory began to emerge, so did allegations of
 irregularities from opposition leaders, reinforced by the organizational disarray of
 the elections.

 At one electoral office in downtown Port-au-Prince, poll workers apparently
 finished their tally late Sunday then dumped the ballots into the street.

 Orlando Marville, a Barbados diplomat who heads an Electoral Observation
 Mission for the Organization of American States, said voter tally sheets and the
 voter registry remained in the offices where the ballots had been dumped.

 In the island of Gonave, off Port-au-Prince, opposition parties refused to accept
 the results of Sunday's election, charging that all the polling stations were under
 the control of Lavalas. In the Grand Anse department of southwestern Haiti,
 elections were postponed because of a dispute over the composition of the local
 provisional electoral council.

 Marville said his office had unconfirmed reports of election day violence at only 15
 of more than 11,200 polling stations, most in rural areas northeast of the capital.
 They included such things as armed men taking over polling stations and burning
 of ballot boxes.

 A minor party candidate for mayor of Port-au-Prince died Monday following a
 clash between his supporters and those of Lavalas. The candidate, Jean-Michel
 Holefen, was hit in the head by a rock. Police fired tear gas to break up the melee
 in downtown Port-au-Prince.


 Meanwhile, both local and foreign observers hailed the Sunday election for its high
 voter turnout and the lack of violence, despite its technical imperfections.

 The turnout, said Marville, ``was very acceptable.'' He did not have percentages
 yet but said ``it seemed to have been about 50 percent'' of Haiti's one million
 registered voters.

 ``Haiti has surprised the world with an election that had a lesser degree of
 violence and higher level of turnout than expected,'' said Lionel Delatour, secretary
 general of a private sector foundation.

 Both Marville and a U.S. congressional delegation, including Rep. John Conyers,
 D-Mich., and William Delahunt, D-Mass., praised the election day work of Haiti's
 beleaguered National Police for helping to maintain the calm.

 But their highest praise went to the Haitian voters.

 ``Though we do not presume to paint the entire picture, or draw any firm
 conclusions from our preliminary observations, we can say we saw a firm
 commitment from Haiti's citizens to make these elections a success,'' the
 delegation said.