At 1:30 in the morning of July 12, Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) finally began releasing results from the June 25 legislative and municipal elections, the first held since a US-led military occupation began last September.
Supporters of populist President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had won all the races for which final results were available: four Senate seats and 16 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Aristide's Lavalas ("the flood") movement was also far ahead in most of the remaining races.
Some races will go to a second round in August, but it is clear that Aristide can expect to have a majority in the parliament for the remainder of his term, which ends in February 1996.
On July 13 the CEP gave results for 82 of the 133 mayoral posts; Lavalas candidates had won 64, including those in the nine largest cities.
In the race for mayor of Port-au-Prince, folk singer Manno Charlemagne took 45% of the vote; US-backed incumbent Evans Paul ("K-Plim") trailed badly with 18%, while 18 other candidates split the remainder. Charlemagne, a self-proclaimed Marxist communist who ran as an independent but was known to be backed by Lavalas, spent most of the campaign in his Brooklyn home and on tour in Europe.
Charlemagne appears to have "overturned at a stroke US plans for a peaceful transition to democracy to top off last year's bloodless invasion", writes the British Independent. Over the past two years Evans Paul's administration got tens of thousands of dollars in US aid; he was seen as the US favourite for the December presidential elections. "If he can't win Port-au-Prince, his hopes of being elected president in December are effectively ended", a US official told New York Newsday.
The US made no effort to hide its displeasure with the size of the Lavalas win. The CEP had announced that the election results would finally be released on July 8. But according to the New York Times, US ambassador William Swing and Lakhdar Brahmi, the head of the United Nations occupation force, visited the CEP on July 8 and "convinced four members of the electoral council who were present to withhold the results for another 72 hours, electoral officials said".
The 72 extra hours reportedly brought a number of meetings between diplomats, political parties, Aristide and Paul.
Despite its electoral victory, Lavalas still seems unable to withstand heavy pressure from the US. Charlemagne, for example, has said that for all his leftist positions he now will go along with Aristide's neo-liberal economic policies.
On July 11 the US House of Representatives passed a $12 billion appropriations bill cutting foreign aid by 11%. The bill, which will now go to the Senate, specifies that Haiti will receive aid only if its electoral process meets US standards. The massive irregularities of the June 25 vote give the US a pretext for cutting off aid if the Lavalas government shows too much independence.
Meanwhile, no evidence seems to implicate Lavalas supporters in the electoral problems.
[From Weekly News Update on the Americas, published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York.]