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Political party founded during Duvalier dictatorship plans to run in Haiti elections

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The old political party founded under the Duvalier dictatorship says it plans to enter candidates in Haitian elections that are supposed to be held by year's end, a party member said Thursday.

Friteau Marc, a coordinator for the National Unity Party, told The Associated Press Thursday that the candidates will run "at all levels" in the legislative and local vote, which has not yet been scheduled.

The political party on Tuesday inaugurated the first of what will be several offices in the country's southeastern coast. The ceremony outside the coastal town of Jacmel was attended by Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier and his longtime partner Veronique Roy.

The National Unity Party was founded by Duvalier's predecessor, his father Francois "Papa Doc," who quashed political dissent and banned opposition parties through the use of dreaded private militia known as the Tonton Macoutes. The elder Duvalier died in 1971 and his son assumed the presidency at 19, the youngest leader in the world.

The younger Duvalier, now 62 and frail, ruled Haiti as "president for life" until a popular uprising ousted him in 1986. Since his surprise return in 2011, he has faced charges of human rights abuses and embezzlement allegedly committed during his tenure. His attorneys say he's innocent.

Despite the criminal charges, Duvalier has freely ventured out to meet with friends and dine in fancy restaurants. He has not shown any overt signs of returning to politics but is sometimes greeted by fervent supporters who applaud him as they display the party's red-and-black flag.

"This is an insult and a provocation for those who fight against justice," said human rights activist Pierre Esperance, whose watchdog group has been closely following the Duvalier court proceedings.

Marc declined to comment on speculation in Haiti that Duvalier's adult son, Francois Nicolas "Nico," could run in the upcoming election.

Haiti is under mounting pressure from the United States and other countries to hold the vote, which is now more than two years overdue. Balloting aims to fill 20 seats in the 30-member Senate, all the seats in the 99-member Chamber of Deputies and about 140 municipal posts.

An agreement signed by the Chamber of Deputies early this month proposes Oct. 26 as an election date but the accord has yet to clear Senate for final approval.

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