Haiti Archives 1995-1996
18/12/95 HAITI-U.S.: Washington Yawns over Poll

Copyright 1995 InterPress Service, all rights reserved. Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

*** 18-Dec-95 ***

Title: HAITI-U.S.: Washington Yawns over Poll/RELATE

/AT EDS: Pls relate the following to the story run earlier from Port-au-Prince entitled ‘Voters Apathetic as Aristide Ally Heads for Win’/

WASHINGTON, Dec 18 (IPS) – Washington’s official reaction to Haiti’s latest presidential election has amounted to barely more than a yawn and a few discrete mutterings.

The administration mostly confined its response to a statement by the U.S. presidential delegation to Haiti headed by J. Brian Atwood, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

‘’Although voter turnout was apparently low, human rights were respected throughout the campaign, and there was no attempt by any segment of society to prevent people from voting or to subvert the exercise of free political choice,’’ says the statement. USAID contributed some three million dollars to the electoral process.

The partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government Monday because of a domestic budget crisis could partly account for the low interest, but analysts say administration officials continue to demonstrate ambivalence towards Rene Preval, the electoral front-runner and President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s chosen successor.

In recent times, the attitude towards Preval in Washington has moved from one of outright dislike to something approaching condescension, according to Rachel Nields from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

‘’He was really disliked,’’ says Nields, who notes that some in the U.S. Congress likened him to an ‘’unreformed Aristide’’. Now, they recall that when he was Prime Minister for seven months in 1991, Preval was instrumental in negotiating an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

‘’Now the attitude is ‘he’s someone we can work with’,’’ she says. ‘’They also say he has changed since he’s gone back and that he’s a good manager.’’

Preval left Haiti when Aristide’s government was ousted in the Sep. 30, 1991 military coup. He later returned and has administered the Fund for Economic and Social Assistance, sponsored by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to finance small development projects.

Republicans, who control both Houses of the U.S. Congress, have shown outright distrust of Aristide and the people around him. That antipathy has grown in recent times as Aristide has backed off an agreement with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), an arm of the World Bank, to sell off nine state enterprises.

Monday, the Republicans’ international wing — the International Republican Institute (IRI) — issued a relatively mild response to Sunday’s poll compared to its vehement challenge to the polling this past summer for municipal, local government, and legislative seats.

At that time, the IRI issued a scathing 300-page report, attacking everything from the way the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) was organised to how candidates were disqualified from running.

Now, the IRI says that ‘’Haiti’s election authorities demonstrated a more responsive attitude to the basic requirements of a democratic electoral process.’’

It, however, noted ‘’confusing collection procedures’’ for ballot boxes and problems with voter registration lists could muddy the outcome.

Some of the problems cited by the IRI are in line with those picked up by election observers from the Organisation of American States (OAS).

According to the OAS Election Observer Mission, voting took place without any serious incidents of intimidation and violence, but some areas failed to meet a requirement that all polling stations provide reliable electoral lists.

In a release signed by Colin Granderson, head of the OAS mission, the observers noted that while some electoral offices had no lists, others listed the candidates for the June poll only.

‘’It is clear that voting occurred in a calm and orderly fashion without serious incidents of intimidation or violence,’’ says Granderson, whose teams also undertook ‘’quick counts’’ at selected polling stations once the voting ended to verify the integrity of the official results when they are released.

The OAS teams says tempers flared when voters with valid registration cards were unable to find their designated polling stations. Haiti’s Electoral Council responded by announcing that these people could vote whether or not their names were on the list.

The response to the election was fairly muted at the State Department Monday.

‘’We congratulate President Aristide and the Haitian people on their commitment to the rule of law and to democracy, and to the Haitian constitution,’’ said State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns. ‘’We stand ready to assist…the Haitian people, as they try to build their democracy.’’ (END/IPS/YJC/JL/95)

Origin: Washington/HAITI-U.S./ ----

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