Secretary of State Powell has recently contended that Jean-Bertrand Aristide was democratically elected in 2000. This is not true and contradicts what his own State Department said at the time.

The question is not an arcane historical item. Current U.S. policy still seeks to maintain Aristide in the presidency on the grounds he was legitimately elected.

In fact, Aristide’s election was illegal under Haitian law and capped off an election cycle that was ridden by fraud and marred by violence. The OAS electoral observation mission condemned the previous legislative election as rigged and the president and two members of the electoral commission resigned, leaving Haiti without a legally constituted electoral commission. An illegal commission of Aristide supporters was constituted which held the presidential election without the constitutionally-required election law and virtually without opposition.

The May 21 elections

On May 21, 2000 some 60 percent of the electorate voted in an impressive, dignified manner in the legislative elections. The OAS monitored the vote. In the following days, ballot-box stuffing and violence against oppositionists cast a shadow over the results. Then came the deliberate miscount of the senatorial ballots by Aristide partisans on the election commission. Without any basis in the electoral law, the electoral commission cut off the counting of the votes at the top two finishers in each senatorial race. This bumped up the percentages of the front-running candidates, all from the Aristide party, so that they “won” on the first round, giving a monopoly of senate seats to the Aristide supporters. But actually non-Aristide candidates outpolled Aristide candidates in four of the eight departments. (Source: Tally sheets published by Provisional Electoral Commission (CEP), June 2000).

The OAS calculates that 1.2 million votes for 101 senatorial candidates were discarded. “The refusal of the CEP to modify the calculations eventually led the Mission to conclude that the highest electoral authority of the country violated its own Constitution and electoral law,” the OAS reported. The elections were “fundamentally flawed.” On July 7, 2000 the OAS ended all of its electoral observation activity in Haiti. (Source: OAS Chief of Mission Report to the Permanent Council).

In the lower house races, Aristide candidates won only one-third of the seats on the first round.

The OAS electoral observation mission headed by Amb. Orlando Marville protested the miscount to the president of the electoral commission, Léon Manus, who then refused to validate the count. “I was summoned to the National Palace, where both President Préval and former president Aristide threatened me with death if I did not publish the manipulated results.”

The next morning, pro-Aristide mobs were on the street clamoring for Manus?s head (he was seventy-seven at the time). The U.S. embassy evacuated him to the United States. (Details reported by Mark Fineman in Los Angeles Times).

The July 9 elections

The opposition boycotted the second round of the election, which Préval insisted on holding anyway. The non-Aristide members of the commission withdrew. The result was a total monopoly for the Aristide party in both houses.

The November 26 presidential elections

The presidential election was held on November 26 under exactly the same circumstances: no OAS observation, an illegally constituted electoral commission, the opposition boycotting, no domestic observation. Repelled by the fraud and controversy, the Haitian electorate stayed home.

Other considerations extraneous to the electoral count and process per se are sometimes advanced: Aristide “would have” won anyhow, the international community recognized Aristide anyhow. On November 28, 2000 State Department spokesman Richard Boucher addressed this point:

Q. “Did you believe that Mr. Aristide’s party would not win the runoffs?”

A. “We don’t make predictions on who is up, who is down. We look at the electoral process and how it is handled, and whether it is handled openly, whether it is transparent , whether it is legal. And there were serious deficiencies on all those counts.”3