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#4934: Haiti set to defy.... (fwd)
Published Thursday, August 24, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Haiti set to defy opposition, swear in lawmakers
Critics dismiss count of votes for senators By DON BOHNING
Members of a new Haitian parliament are expected to be sworn in Monday
in defiance of international warnings that the assembly's legitimacy
will not be recognized until a disputed vote count for 10 Senate
seats is resolved. ``This is where we are going to find out if the
international community is going to blink or not,'' said a Haitian
political analyst from Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. The United
Nations, Organization of American States, European Union, Caribbean
Community, and virtually all of Haiti's major bilateral partners,
including the United States, France and Canada, have charged that the
vote count for senators in the May 21 elections was flawed and that at
least 10 of 19 Senate seats on the ballot should have been decided in a
runoff. ``Basically what the Haitian government would be saying [by
swearing in a new parliament] is that that part of the process is over
and it is not concerned about what the international community is saying
about legitimacy or not,'' said a foreign diplomat. ``It is just pushing
Haiti has been without a parliament since January last year, when
President RenePreval declared its term at an end. New parliamentary
elections should have been held in November 1998 but were postponed
three times before taking place on May 21 this year. While most
observers believe the parliament will be sworn in Monday, some still
consider a delay possible because of international pressure.
If the legitimacy of the new parliament is not recognized, it could
affect foreign assistance projects. Such projects would require the
approval of Haiti's parliament, as would matters concerning the
country's international relations, including ratification of documents
as a full member of the Caribbean Community.
Observers say installing the parliament would also raise questions
about the legitimacy of the scheduled Nov. 26 presidential election,
which former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is expected to win
handily. It is likely there will be little, if any, international money
available to fund the upcoming vote, which is also for the remaining
eight Senate seats.
ARISTIDE ALLIES WIN
Aristide's Lavalas Family party won large majorities in both chambers
of the incoming parliament, taking 18 of 19 Senate seats and 72 of 82
seats in the lower chamber with one lower chamber seat still unresolved.
Two Lavalas Family members of the new Senate -- Dany Toussaint and
Medard Joseph -- are on a congressionally-mandated U.S. State Department
list, which links the men to past political assassinations in Haiti.
Accordingly, they are denied U.S. visas. The scheduled swearing-in comes
little more than a week after an Organization of American States
mission, led by Secretary-General César Gaviria, visited Haiti
with the avowed purpose of ``further strengthening democracy.''
By most accounts from Haiti, the recent OAS visit did little to put
pressure on the Preval government to reconsider the May 21 election
results. An OAS electoral observer group had itself said the vote was
flawed in the way the Senate votes were tabulated.
PLEA TO HAITIANS
Gaviria, at a closing press conference, on Saturday pleaded with
Haitians to open a ``national dialogue'' over the dispute, warning that
if it were ``not possible, the country will be affected severely.''
``The visit of the secretary-general did not go well here,'' said the
Haitian analyst. ``They put the emphasis much more on asking the
opposition to participate in presidential elections and participate in a
dialogue . . . There was no public statement on whether they were going
to recognize the new parliament. ``For the opposition political parties
and civil society, the visit was a victory for the government.''
Sources familiar with Gaviria's message in private meetings, however,
said he made clear that the May 21 elections would never be accepted as
they stand and that everybody had to pull together to make the Nov. 26
elections work. If a new parliament is seated, international abandonment
and isolation of Haiti is more likely than collective international
sanctions such as an embargo, say the same sources. However, ranking
officials could well face targeted individual bilateral sanctions,
including U.S. visa denials and frozen bank