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#4312: EDITORIALS- Must move forward for hope to prevail (fwd)

>From Rosann Clements <rosann@onemain.com>


Published Tuesday, June 20, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Elections in Haiti
Must move forward for hope to prevail
With every step forward, Haiti's leaders stumble two steps backward in their
agonizing march toward democracy. They tripped again this past weekend when
the president of the electoral council fled Haiti after receiving threats on
his life for refusing to sign elections results for last month's contested
balloting. Yesterday the council postponed a runoff vote that originally was
scheduled for Sunday.
Those developments, however troubling, shouldn't be more than temporary
setbacks brought on by political infighting. The runoff could be rescheduled
for as early as July 2. The United States, the Organization of American
States and the United Nations, which have invested a lot of money and
resources into establishing a democratic process in Haiti, must pressure
Haitian leaders to get those elections back on track. They should salvage
the first round of balloting by appointing a negotiator to cool heads and
get everyone to accept the May 21 results as legitimate. That may be hard to
achieve since the word compromise doesn't figure prominently in the
vocabulary of Haiti's political entities. The alternative would be to start
at zero, and that's no option for a country teetering on the brink of
economic, social and political collapse.
The May 21 elections were marred by delays and relatively minor
irregularities, which the OAS assigned to incompetence, not mischief.
Partial results from the electoral council then said that candidates from
Fanmi Lavalas, former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's party, had won a
majority of the seats in the senate. Later on, the council president said
the method used to calculate the vote percentages for senate candidates
wasn't correct, prompting accusations of cheating from an opposition bent on
barring the way to a parliament controlled by Mr. Aristide and the former
priest's eventual return as president later this year.
The opposition to Mr. Aristide should not box itself out of Haiti's future.
It should leave open enough room to allow that nothing sinister took place
in the May 21 elections, and that mistakes were not efforts at fraud. At
this juncture, it would be equally critical for Mr. Aristide to come out
from the shadows of his walled compound and negotiate a peaceful solution to
this new crisis that risks to destroy all signs of hope for his country.