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#5295: Last-ditch attempt to resolve Haiti's political crisis (fwd)
Posted at 8:44 a.m. EDT Thursday, October 12, 2000
Last-ditch attempt to resolve Haiti's political crisis
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP)-- In a last-ditch attempt to resolve Haiti's
political crisis before November presidential elections, the
Organization of American States is sending a team to mediate for the
third time in three months. The Washington-based organization said
Assistant Secretary-General Luigi Einaudi would arrive today to try to
bring politicians together. Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria made a
similar attempt in August and Einaudi was here last month. Both missions
failed and there seemed little likelihood for a breakthrough this time.
The OAS and Haiti's biggest direct donors, the European Union and the
United States, have urged the government to resolve disputed results of
legislative elections this year before going ahead with the presidential
vote. If the international community does not recognize the legitimacy
of the election, the economic consequences could be catastrophic for the
poverty-stricken country. More than 60 percent the budget is financed by
donors who are threatening to cut aid.
All main opposition parties charge that President Rene Preval helped
rig legislative elections between May and July to favor candidates from
the party of his mentor, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who
won 80 percent of seats. The opposition are boycotting the presidential
election since Preval has refused to review the balloting or the count
for 10 Senate seats questioned by OAS observers. On Monday, Aristide
registered to run in the election scheduled Nov. 26. With that move,
``Preval and Aristide have sent Einaudi a clear message,'' said
Sauveur Pierre Etienne, a spokesman for the biggest party in a 17-party
opposition alliance, ``They have slammed the door on negotiations.''
Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis told reporters Monday that ``We
believe in the importance of dialogue, of the OAS mission.'' But
``whatever the position of the politicians may be, the government will
not go back on its decision'' to hold the presidential election.
Seven little-known and unknown candidates have registered to challenge
Aristide, virtually guaranteeing him victory. The charismatic Aristide
remains the most popular politician in the Caribbean country, but the
boycott casts doubt on the democracy of the process and sets
the stage for yet another questionable election here.
Haiti had been without a parliament for 19 months until this year's
elections because Preval dismissed legislators amid charges of fraud in
1997 legislative elections that subsequently were annulled.