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#4622: Haiti's flawed elections put strains on economy (fwd)


WIRE:07/14/2000 15:49:00 ET
  Haiti's flawed elections put  strains on economy
PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 14 (Reuters) - International criticism of    
Haiti"s recent parliamentary elections and warnings the impoverished  
Caribbean nation could lose aid have  spooked consumers and may hinder
economic development, local economists said this week. "People are    
panicking and trying to buy more American dollars to prepare for
difficult times," said  Luc Especa, national coordinator for the
Caribbean Export Development Agency, which promotes trade in the
Caribbean. "Inflation is getting higher and the purchasing power of the
people is getting reduced."The value of Haiti"s currency dropped after
the U.S. government warned Haiti on Thursday it risked losing
international aid if the apparently skewed results of the               
legislative and local vote were not recounted. The  exchange rate on
Friday was 20 gourdes to the dollar,compared to 19.7 on Thursday as
fears grew that economic sanctions could follow. The May 21 vote,     
meant to take Haiti toward a stable democracy after decades of
dictatorship and coups, instead brought political controversy to the
poorest nation of the  Americas. Observers with the Organisation of  
American States (OAS) said results for the senatorial seats had been
miscalculated, giving the ruling Lavalas Family party of former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide a stronger win than it was due. The
OAS, the hemisphere"s top diplomatic body, asked Haiti"s  Provisional
Electoral Council (CEP) to recount the votes but it refused. The OAS
then withdrew its observers from the July 9 runoff election, saying   
first-round results proclaimed by the CEP could not be considered
"either accurate or fair." 

CARIBBEAN PRESSURE Twice before the runoff, the Caribbean Community
(Caricom) also sent an electoral mission to  ask for a recount. The
Caricom envoy, former St.  Lucian prime minister John Compton, said
Caricom was eager to see Haiti receive the benefits of full   
membership in the 15-nation group, which promotes  trade and
development. Full membership would give Haiti, which was granted
provisional status in 1997,the ability to vote in meetings, as well as
revoke high duties and tariffs for its exports. Caricom officials     
could not be reached for comment, and Compton did  not directly link
full membership to a recount. But local economists said it was clear
that full Caricom membership was contingent on restoring a legitimate  
Parliament. "I"m sure it (the elections" lack of credibility) might
endanger it. It could definitely postpone Haiti"s acceptance," said Hans
Tippenhauer,an analyst for Group Croissance, a local economic and      
business consulting firm. Some international aid also depends on Haiti
re-establishing a parliament, which  Haiti has not had since President
Rene Preval dissolved the legislature in January 1999. "If the
legitimacy of the Parliament is challenged by the United States and the
European Union, then it will hamper Haiti"s move to development and
economic prosperity. This is the main concern for Caricom," said       
Especa. "In order to be able to enjoy the benefits of Caricom, Haiti
must make an effort to reform, to change, and to adapt." Haitian
authorities contend the elections will not prevent admission to Caricom.
"The Haitian government is confident that the elections will not affect
membership with Caricom, and expects Haiti to be voted in without any
hesitation," said Asselin Charles, a spokesman for the Haitian