Voters back Aristide massively, believing he will relieve troubles
BY YVES COLON
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- An overwhelming majority of the Haitians who
went to the
polls Sunday apparently believe former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his
Family Lavalas party will improve their lives, effectively giving them a mandate to
rebuild their decaying economy and their society.
A fractured opposition boycotted the vote, but elections officials
said that more
than half of the 4.2 million eligible voters went out to cast ballots despite threats
of violence, with 2.6 million, or 92 percent, picking Aristide.
The closest candidate among four others who participated in the
contest was pastor Arnold Dumas with 58,678 votes, or 2.04 percent of the total.
Yvon Neptune, Lavalas' spokesman and the leader of the Haitian
Senate, said the
landslide was a vote of confidence that Aristide can lead the country into a better
future. He spoke of pep la, the Creole word meaning the common people, the
thousands without jobs, growing up in slums and in pockets of the countryside
who have no experience with schools or medical services.
``Jean-Bertrand Aristide remains a symbol for the Haitian people,''
``They realize that everything he does, he does it in the interest of the people.''
This will be Aristide's second try at leading Haiti, as he puts
it, out of misery into
poverty. Haitians elected him in 1990, but a military junta sent him into exile
seven months later. Aristide returned triumphant to Haiti in 1994 behind 20,000
In a meeting with journalists the previous day, he acknowledged
the extent of his
challenges. His people are poor and hungry. Too many people, eight million
according to the latest count, are making too many demands on the environment
and the cities, stressing both past their limits. More than three quarters of the
population are either unemployed or underemployed.
Members of an opposition coalition said they did not contest the
because the decks were stacked against them. They said members of the
council that runs the elections were not independent, and they wanted new
legislative elections held to replace those held in May, which Lavalas candidates
won by huge margins.
Neptune described as being without value the opposition coalition's
the vote was illegitimate because the opposition boycotted it. The only way for the
people to choose their leaders are through elections, he said.
``If they don't show up, how can the Haitian people choose them?''
``There is no other place to do that.''