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Haiti:A Whisper for Democracy

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For the first time in 29 years, the Caribbean’s poorest people had spoken in a free and fair national election. The occasion: the selection of 41 delegates to a 61-member commission charged with writing Haiti’s 23rd constitution. The voting was held on schedule, but less than 10% of the country’s estimated 2.9 million eligible voters cast ballots. Despite heady days of promise last February after President-for-Life Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier fled to exile in France, Haitians exercised their democratic franchise last week with a whisper.

Signs of deep-seated skepticism toward the balloting were widespread. Some Haitians complained that the Port-au-Prince government, which will appoint the 20 other commission members, had not sufficiently publicized the elections — or the candidates. In Lilavois, a polling official was seen sleeping with his head on a voting registry.

Lieut. General Henri Namphy, president of the ruling National Council of Government, was philosophical about the disappointing turnout. Looking ahead to congressional and presidential elections scheduled for late 1987, he observed, “We are showing them the path so that next year everything will go normally.” After the council’s haphazard approach to last week’s vote, Haitians remain dubious.

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