- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Haiti's Election Council formally declared supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide the winners in 16 of 17 Senate contests yesterday, acting after the head of the council fled to the United States rather than endorse the results.

The certification of the May election results brought calm to the streets of Port-au-Prince and other Haitian cities, where anti-American riots flared on Monday.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said it was still "too early" to decide whether the United States would recognize the results, saying some of them "haven't been finalized."

Results are still to be announced for 83 seats in the parliament's House of Deputies. Preliminary results gave Mr. Aristide's candidates 23 of those seats.

"We're certainly quite aware of the process and believe it needs to be handled very carefully to make sure it's fair," Mr. Boucher said.

Two senior U.S. officials rushed to Haiti Monday to discuss the election process and were holding meetings at the U.S. Embassy.

No details were available on the visit by Donald Steinberg, special Haiti coordinator at State, and National Security Council Caribbean expert Arturo Valenzuela.

The U.S. Embassy reopened yesterday after being forced to close Monday when protesters set fires in front of the chancery and, in many other parts of the capital, blocked roads with burning tires.

Diplomats contacted by telephone said the airport remained closed in the morning for a second day.

Leon Manus, the 84-year-old president of the Election Council, is in hiding in Boston but not available for interviews, according to Joseph Muradieu of the Haiti Communications Project in Cambridge, Mass.

Mr. Manus reportedly had received death threats after he declined to issue results for seven out of the 17 Senate seats contested on May 21. He fled with his wife to an embassy in Port-au-Prince and then was spirited over the border to the Dominican Republic before flying to the United States.

In an unusual show of restraint, the Haitian media declined to report the flight of Mr. Manus until he was safely out of the country, said a diplomatic source in Haiti who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mr. Manus was to have given a news conference yesterday in Boston to explain why he fled Haiti, according to Mr. Muradieu. But the conference never took place.

"Naturally we're concerned about the fact that [Mr. Manus and his wife] felt it necessary to leave the country," Mr. Boucher said yesterday.

He and other U.S. officials said they did not know where Mr. Manus was.

Officials at the Organization of American States have refused to certify the elections as honest because in seven of the races where Mr. Artistide's Lavalas Family party was declared the winner yesterday, the victor did not receive the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a runoff.

The Election Council ruled in the face of pressure from pro-Lavalas demonstrations that if a candidate won 50 percent of the votes among the top four candidates, that was enough to win.

Haitian and foreign observers reported that Mr. Aristide's Lavalas was leading in the seven races and likely would have won in runoffs, which were set for Sunday but now have been delayed to an undetermined date.

Mr. Aristide and his ally, President Rene Preval, have made no public announcements about Monday's violence, fueling opposition charges that Lavalas party leaders had given their tacit approval to the riots.

The diplomatic source said the rioters were being paid to demonstrate.

The announcement that Mr. Aristide's candidates had swept the Senate elections was signed by the six remaining council members minus Mr. Manus and two members who resigned on Thursday.

Mr. Manus was quoted by Radio Galaxie as saying in the United States Monday that he refused to give in to pressure from Mr. Preval to sign off on incorrect election results.

The seven disputed candidates include at least three whom opponents have linked to cocaine shipments to the United States a charge the Lavalas party has denied.

Also declared a winner was former Police Chief Dany Toussaint, who was accused in a 1997 U.S. Senate vote of being a suspected murderer. U.S. Senate opponents of Mr. Aristide previously have called the then-exiled president a "murderer" as well.

In the northern city of Cap Haitien on Saturday, according to Haitian broadcasts, Lavalas supporters threatened about 150 U.S. soldiers performing humanitarian relief work that they would be attacked unless the election results were announced.

The city remained in the grip of demonstrations Saturday and Monday, but no attacks were reported on any Americans, the diplomatic source said.

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