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After a Divisive Campaign, Canadians Cast Their Votes


Millions of Canadians cast ballots Monday after one of the most divisive national campaigns in Canadian history, which featured personal attacks more than discussion of the issues.

The vote will decide whether Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s Liberal Party, in power since 1993, wins a majority of Parliament’s seats for the third election in a row. If the party loses seats, analysts say, Chretien could be forced out as prime minister as early as next year -- although another Liberal would likely succeed him.

On Sunday, Chretien turned aside suggestions the Liberals might lose their majority. “I am confident that we will have a very good result on Monday,” Chretien told reporters. “The people of Canada don’t want to turn back the clock. The people of Canada, they want to move forward.”

Polls favor the Liberals to get the biggest vote. But if that happens, it won’t be because of Chretien. Many Canadians, political analysts say, went to the polls unhappy with him for calling an election just 3 1/2 years into his five-year mandate, unhappy with his leadership and the image of “arrogance” he projected.

But often they were not unhappy enough to vote for the main opposition party, the conservative Canadian Alliance led by Christian fundamentalist Stockwell Day.

These sentiments were echoed at polling places in Ontario province, the main battleground.

“Canadians are left with ghastly decisions. We’ve either got to vote for the old crooks or the new crooks,” said P.J. Wade, a voter who lives in Toronto. “Will the Liberals win? I’m afraid they will.”

Torture Victims in Chad Pursue Ex-Dictator in Court


For eight years, Suleymane Guengueng and a handful of other former political prisoners in this impoverished country carefully gathered and hid evidence of mass murder and torture ordered by a U.S.-backed dictator, waiting to face their tormentors in court.

They may finally get their opportunity. In court cases unprecedented in Africa, Chadians are pursuing the brutal former dictator, Hissene Habre, and his collaborators, many of whom still hold powerful positions. Human rights activists say the legal action was inspired by the campaign to prosecute former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

“These cases sound an alarm for dictators across the continent,” said Reed Brody, advocacy director for New York-based Human Rights Watch, which has supported the suits. “They know their impunity can be questioned. First Pinochet, then Habre, and they know maybe they could be next. It shows accountability is actually possible.”

U.S. officials have said that Washington provided hundreds of millions of dollars to Habre and helped train his intelligence service, whose members are now accused of torture.

In February, Guengueng and four others got a court in Senegal to indict him for torture.