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6023: Aristide Pledges Diverse Rule (fwd)
Tuesday November 28 2:32 AM ET Aristide Pledges Diverse Rule
By MICHAEL NORTON, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Jean-Bertrand Aristide moved to
dispel fears he will rule Haiti as a dictator after an election that he
seems certain to have won.Breaking a six-year silence on political
issues a day after the presidential vote, Aristide said the opposition
would be welcome in his government and denied charges he would squelch
Haiti's nascent democracy.`There will be a place for everyone in my
government,'' Aristide said Monday at his first news conference since
1994. ``To have a peaceful Haiti, the opposition is indispensable. ...
It is part of our democratic fate.'' Opposition groups that boycotted
the election have accused Aristide of plotting a dictatorship or
planning to make himself president for life, echoing the Duvalier family
that ruled by terror from 1957 to 1986.``It's not on my agenda,''
Aristide said.The fiery former priest, who became Haiti's first freely
elected president in 1990, did not declare victory in Sunday's vote, but
he spoke as if he were president. Preliminary results were expected
Tuesday. Aristide said the election was a victory for democracy and that
a ``huge majority'' voted. The electoral council, which opponents charge
is loaded with Aristide partisans, said turnout was 60.5 percent.
Opposition groups charged that ballot boxes were stuffed and turnout
was dismal.``They are hallucinating,'' opposition leader Herve Denis
said. ``The election was illegitimate. Aristide does not have a mandate
to govern.' Signaling a cool response to the promise of inclusion, Denis
said an opposition coalition would create ``a peaceful alternative'' to
Aristide and his Lavalas Family party.
His statement suggested the country could remain locked in a power
struggle that has stymied development and foreign aid and left many
Haitians as poor and hungry as ever. Aristide confronts a mammoth task
in keeping his election promise of`peace of mind, peace in the belly.''
Most of the impoverished Caribbean nation's 8 million people are
unemployed and illiterate. After threatening to cut aid following a
disputed vote count in May legislative elections, the United States and
other donors warned a disputed presidential contest could raise
questions about the legitimacy of Aristide's government.
But in a sign the international community was prepared to give
Aristide chance, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Monday, ``We're glad
(the elections) went ahead as planned and that there was relatively
violence.'The Organization of American States stressed ``the need to
ensure the broad political representation and citizen participation
critical to the development of Haitian democracy.'Opposition parties
have boycotted the process since May, when Aristide's party won 80
percent of the legislature in a vote they charged was rigged to ensure
one-party rule. Aristide ran for president against six unknowns.
After first becoming president in 1990, Aristide was toppled in a 1991
military coup and then restored in 1994 by a U.S.-led invasion to halt a
flood of refugees to Florida. Facing a constitutional ban on
consecutive terms, he reluctantly ceded power to a hand-picked successor