Washington Post – CONSTITUTION APPROVED BY HAITIAN VOTERS AT 99.8 PERCENT APPROVAL RATE.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, MARCH 30, — With a new constitution overwhelmingly approved by popular vote, Haiti began an important new chapter today in its troubled transition to democracy after nearly three decades of dictatorship.
The new charter that won such resounding support from Haitian voters yesterday clearly established a legal framework for the return to elected civilian government.
« We have crossed the key bridge which opens the road for democracy, » said Leslie Manigat, political scientist and presidential contender.
Unofficial figures provided by the Information Ministry this afternoon from 805 of the country’s 1,500 polling stations showed 740,699 voters favoring the constitution and 1,246 against it, or a 99.8 percent approval rate.
Officials said the final results are expected to remain basically the same. They also are expected to show that about 40 percent of the eligible voters participated in the election.
Most observers regard yesterday’s referendum as the most positive political development yet in the 14 months since former President Jean-Claude Duvalier fled the country for France, ending 29 years of Duvalier family dictatorship.
« It’s a very significant event that will mark the future of the country and carry it through to a democratic government, » said a western diplomat.
The new constitution, which takes effect later this month, takes the electoral machinery away from the provisional National Council of Government, headed by Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, and places it in the hands of an independent civilian electoral commission.
The next step calls for local elections in July and then legislative and presidential elections in November. The entire process will culminate Feb. 7, 1988, with the inauguration of a new civilian president.