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6925: Haiti Opposition Has Own President (fwd)

From: Stanley Lucas <slucas@iri.org>

Haiti Opposition Has Own President      
Tuesday February 6 9:28 AM ET

            By MICHAEL NORTON, Associated Press Writer 

            PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Talks collapsed Tuesday between Haiti's opposition and President-elect Jean-Bertrand Aristide's party, and the opposition immediately announced its own alternative president a day before Aristide's inauguration. 

            The 15-party opposition alliance Convergence announced former presidential candidate Gerard Gourgue as the country's provisional president, setting up a power struggle with Aristide. 

            One of the Convergence leaders, Evans Paul, called for the people ``to rise up'' and peacefully demonstrate their rejection of the president in front of the National Palace on Wednesday, where he is to give his inaugural address at noon. 

            Convergence refuses to recognize Aristide's legitimacy as president, saying his party won legislative and local elections last year through fraud. The opposition boycotted the presidential vote. 

            The talks, which began Saturday, had aimed to find common ground, and the two parties had set a deadline of midnight Monday to reach an agreement. Negotiations were extended into the early morning, but then failed, according to those who were there. 

            Aristide's Lavalas Family party and the opposition alliance blamed each other for the breakdown, with mutual accusations of intransigence. 

            Gourgue, a 75-year-old lawyer and human rights activist, was minister of justice in the ruling junta that followed the ouster of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986. He was a presidential candidate in the 1987 elections that were aborted by the army. 

            The selection of Gourgue (pronounced GOORG) as provisional president was revealed to The Associated Press by Hubert Deronceray, a leading member of Convergence. The Cabinet members in the opposition's parallel government have yet to be appointed. 

            U.S. ambassador Brian Dean Curran said Monday that ``the formation of a provisional government does not advance prospects for dialogue or a solution of the political crisis.'' 

            Aristide was re-elected president on Nov. 26, handily defeating his six little-known opponents. His Lavalas Family party also won more than 80 percent of local and parliamentary seats in a series of elections last year. 

            The Organization of American States said 10 Senate seats won by Aristide candidates should have gone to a second round vote, and some countries threatened to withhold or rechannel aid through non-governmental agencies if the government did not revise the results. 

            ``The respect of democratic principles has not yet been re-established in Haiti,'' the European Union  said in a statement on Jan. 29, when it decided to block $49 million in aid to Haiti. Some $17.7 million, intended to help cover the country's budget deficit, also was suspended. 

            In a letter to former President Clinton in December, Aristide offered to rectify the election results, include opposition figures in his government and appoint a new provisional electoral council. 

            The opposition rejected Aristide's offers, saying last year's elections should be nullified and new elections should be held. 

            In a proposal, Convergence offered Aristide one seat on a three-member presidential council. An opposition premier would rule by decree, and general elections would be held by 2003. 

            ``We want real democracy - not a piece of the government,'' said Convergence delegate Mischa Gaillard. 

            ``We want a compromise,'' said Jonas Petit, a Lavalas Family delegate to the talks. ``Unfortunately, Convergence wants to wipe the slate clean.'' 

            Aristide first won the presidency in a landslide electoral victory in 1990. The army ousted him in September 1991, and a U.S. military invasion three years later restored him to power. 

            Constitutionally barred from running for a consecutive five-year term, Aristide stepped down in 1996 and handed power to his chosen successor, Rene Preval.