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#181: Haitian Leader Signs Election Laws (fwd)


Friday July 16 10:25 PM ET 
Haitian Leader Signs Election Laws
By MICHAEL NORTON Associated Press Writer 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Haiti's leader signed a law Friday
nullifying controversial 1997 elections and paving the way
for new ones, possibly leading to the resolution of a political crisis
that has crippled the Caribbean country for two years.The law, which
President Rene Preval and the provisional electoral council signed at a
ceremony in the National Palace, will become official with its
publication in the official state gazette Le Moniteur, probably by
Monday.The electoral decree lays out the organization and supervision of
local and legislative elections scheduled for November and
December.It also stipulates that the entire 83-seat lower house, 19
seats of the 27-seat upper house, 133 mayoral posts, and hundreds of
local consultative assemblies will be contested.That provision
effectively nullifies April 1997 elections at the root of the power
struggle that has paralyzed Haiti since Premier Rosny Smarth resigned in
June 1997.Smarth's party accused President Rene Preval of helping rig
the elections to favor the party of the president's mentor, former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Two Aristide candidates won senate
seats in those elections, which monitors from the Organization of
American States agreed were irregular.Although he reluctantly signed the
law, Preval has criticized the electoral council's decision to nullify
the 1997 election, and there were fears he would not publish the
elections law.A new Parliament would ratify a premier and Cabinet chosen
by Preval. In January, he effectively fired Parliament, which had a
majority from Smarth's party, and then appointed his own premier by