Aristide's party gains control of Haiti's Senate


MIAMI - In a preview of its strength in the coming presidential election, the political party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide gained firm control of the Haitian Senate, according to preliminary results from the May 21 elections.

The results, which were released late Monday by the Provisional Electoral Council, gave Aristide's Family Lavalas party at least 14 of the 19 Senate seats at stake. With large margins of victory, the vote gives Lavalas the majority in Haiti's 27-member Senate.

Lavalas' apparent success did not extend to the lower house of parliament; there its candidates won outright only 16 of the 83 seats. A runoff will be held June 25.

Opposition candidates have accused Lavalas of manipulating the election through a campaign of violence and intimidation that resulted in 15 politically motivated killings since late March.

Peace has been elusive in the days since the election.

Yesterday, poll workers in the Delmas section of Port-au-Prince set fire to the local election office when they were not paid. Last week, Lavalas supporters ransacked the headquarters of a minor political party and killed a person, according to diplomats and international election observers.

About 30 opposition candidates have been arrested since last week on charges that many of the observers said were trumped up. Most have been released.

"The overall take is that Lavalas did do very well in the elections," said a State Department official. "But its heavy-handed tactics, like with the arrests, are marring what could have been a decent victory."

The final vote tally, which could come this week, has been delayed by chaos at electoral offices.

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