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#4540: Caribbean nations step into Haiti's electoral crisis (fwd)


Friday, July 7 6:08 AM SGT 
Caribbean nations step into Haiti's electoral crisis

PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 6 (AFP) - Caribbean nations stepped into Haiti's
electoral crisis Thursday by sending an undisclosed
message to former president Jean Bertrand Aristide, three days ahead of
controversial legislative elections here,according to radio reports.
Saint Lucie's former prime minister, John Compton, delivered the message
to Aristide late Wednesday, the reports said. Neither the content of the
message from the Caribbean Community nor Aristide's response were
immediately released. After their meeting, Compton would only say that
Haiti's solution to the electoral crisis should be "political," in a
statement to the private Radio Metropole in Port-au-Prince.Aristide is
widely considered the most popular politician in Haiti. The former Roman
Catholic priest became Haiti's first popularly elected president in
1991, but was ousted in a coup only months later.A US-led military
invasion reinstated him in 1994, and his Lavalas Family party swept into
power at all levels in  the last legislative elections in 1995, when his
own term ended. He was constitutionally barred from seeking a
second consecutive term after leaving office in 1995.Current President
Rene Preval, whose term ends in February 2001, is widely seen as a
seat-warmer for Aristide.He plans to run for president in November.
Haiti's May 21 legislative elections came after three delays since late
1999 and after a campaign of political violence that left at least 15
dead.While the elections themselves unfolded peacefully and with high
turnout, opposition parties quickly cried fraud and demanded a new
election.International observers from the European Union, the
Organization of American States (OAS) and the UnitedStates criticized
the method used to count the ballots, which they said was not in line
with electoral laws.Haiti's electoral authorities awarded 16 of the 19
Senate seats to Aristide's Lavalas Family party, and staunchly
refused to recount the ballots.The chairman of Haiti's Provisional
Electoral Council (CEP), Leon Manus, fled to the United States rather
than endorse the results.OAS officials have yet to decide how they will
handle Sunday's vote, diplomats here said the OAS will wait for
the government's response to Compton's message before making any
decisions on its eventual departure.The 54 seats in Haiti's Chamber of
Deputies are up for grabs, after May's elections chose senators, mayors
and other municipal officials around the country.Aside from Preval,
Haiti had only eight elected officials before the May 21 vote. Preval
dissolved parliament in January 1999 and has ruled by decree
since.Haiti's fragile economy -- it is already the poorest country in
the western hemisphere -- was further damaged when international lenders
held up 500 million dollars in aid over the political crisis.Many donors
are still waiting to see how the elections proceed, although the United
States released 22 million dollars in aid last week.