From the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, two major political parties, the Liberals and the Nationalists, were predominant. The Liberals, composed mainly of the wealthier and better-educated mulatto minority, advocated legislative control of government, while the Nationalists, composed mainly of the lower-and middle-class black majority, favored a strong executive. The traditional mulatto hegemony, whose wealth was inherited from the departed French colonists, was ended by Duvalier, who used the mulattoes as scapegoats.
After Jean-Claude Duvalier became president in 1971, some political activity was allowed, but by 1982 most dissidents had again been silenced. In 1979, an opposition Haitian Christian Democratic Party (Parti Démocratique Chrétien d'Haïti—PDCH) was founded, but its leader, Sylvio Claude, was arrested in October 1980. In the 1979 legislative elections only one antigovernment candidate won a seat; he resigned in July 1981. The PDCH dropped out of the municipal election campaign in 1983 following the arrest of several party members on national security charges.
Dozens of parties emerged after the CNG ousted Jean-Claude Duvalier in February 1986, most prominently, the National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD), which backed Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the 1990 elections, but from which he later disassociated himself. Other groups include the National Congress of Democratic Movements (CONACOM), the Rally of Progressive National Democrats (RDNP), the Revolutionary Progressive Nationalist Party (PANPRA), and the Movement for the Installation of Democracy in Haiti (MIDH), under former prime minister Marc Bazin.
By 1995 the dominant party, and the one associated with Aristide, was the Lavalas Political Platform, an alliance of the Lavalas Political Organization (OPL) and the Movement for the Organization of the Country (MOP). Backed by Aristide and Lavalas, René Préval was elected president in the December 1995 elections with 88% of the vote. In the mid-1995 legislative elections, all but one of the 18 vacated Senate seats were won by Lavalas candidates and the party also swept the election in the lower house, with 12 seats going to candidates of other groups, including independents. In 1997, former president Bertrand Aristide formally registered a new party—Fanmi Lavalas (FL, Lavalas Family)—which broke ranks with the existing Lavalas government before the 2000 elections. The legislative elections, initially scheduled for June 1999, were postponed repeatedly throughout the rest of 1999 and the first half of 2000. They were eventually held, together with the presidential elections, in November 2000. The next parliamentary elections were scheduled for 2004 and presidential elections for 2005.