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Regime’s Backers Claim Victory in Haiti : But Foes Denounce Vote, Boycotted by at Least 80%, as a ‘Sham’

Times Staff Writer

Supporters of Haiti’s army-led government claimed victory and opponents cried foul Monday as incomplete results of Sunday’s widely boycotted presidential election began to trickle in to the capital city.

Scattered partial returns from two of the country’s nine provinces showed conservative candidate Leslie F. Manigat significantly ahead of the 10 other candidates, with Gregoire Eugene second, according to the government-run National Radio.

A spokesman for the four-party opposition coalition that boycotted the voting called for the results to be declared null and void.

In radio broadcasts Monday, three of the coalition leaders, Marc Bazin, Silvio Claude and Gerard Gourgue, denounced the voting as a “fraud” and a “sham.”

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According to official and unofficial estimates, 80% to 93% of Haitians stayed away from the polls to protest manipulation of the election by the provisional government of Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy.

Acknowledging that a substantial majority of eligible voters stayed home, the spokesman for the government’s handpicked Electoral Council said that “more than 20% participated.” Spokesman Gerard Bretous said that it might be several days before a more precise and official count is available.

But Bazin, a former World Bank economist and one-time presidential candidate, said that “less than 7%" of the country’s 3 million voters cast ballots.

Eugene, a leading candidate who earlier had been considered an army favorite, charged that the voting was rigged by military leaders “under pressure from the United States government” to railroad Manigat, a political scientist, into the presidency.

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Beaming like a winner at a Monday press conference for foreign journalists, the rotund, gravel-voiced Manigat, 57, whom many here consider Haiti’s most astute politician, appeared confident of victory but cautioned that “we still have to wait for the results.”

Manigat and the National Radio criticized foreign journalists for reporting widespread irregularities in Sunday’s voting. “The mercenaries of this venal, partisan, partial, corrupted press must disarm themselves,” said a National Radio editorial, charging that “the press have received money to sabotage the electoral process in Haiti.”

The foreign journalists, who were the only independent outside observers permitted at polling places, reported numerous incidents of double voting, voting by those who were under age, mishandling of ballots by poll officers and tampering with ballot boxes. They also cited one incident of vote-buying for Manigat.

Manigat shrugged off the heavy voter boycott as merely a demonstration of Haitians exercising their democratic right not to vote. “We are not in a dictatorship,” he said.

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Before the election, Manigat had said he hoped for at least 30% voter participation in order to give the elections credibility to foreign and domestic skeptics. Less than 10% participation would give a newly elected president an appearance of weakness, he said then.

On Monday, he said, “I would lament a proportion lower than 10% or 5%" but added that regardless of percentage, “it is a valid election.”

U.S.-Haitian relations deteriorated as the result of a failed attempt at free elections here last Nov. 29, when at least 34 would-be voters were murdered at the polls in Port-au-Prince. The United States cut off all non-humanitarian aid in protest.

The killings were attributed to remnants of the Tontons Macoutes, a repressive private militia of the Duvalier family dictatorship that ruled Haiti for 29 years until the military took over in Feburary, l986. Critics of the Namphy government charge that the army let the election-day killings take place as a strategy to prevent the election of an independent president.

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