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7350: Haiti: We'll Solve Election Impasse (fwd)

From: nozier <nozier@tradewind.net>

  Wednesday March 14 6:11 PM ET
  Haiti: We'll Solve Election Impasse
  By GEORGE GEDDA, Associated Press Writer

 WASHINGTON (AP) - Haiti's foreign minister told the Organization of
American States that his government plans to find a ``definitive
solution'' to a political impasse dating from senatorial elections last
May.  Speaking Wednesday to the OAS permanent council, Joseph Philippe
Antonio proposed advancing election timetables for  the 19 Senate seats
decided in the May 21 elections, 10 of which the opposition said were
rigged, and for Chamber of  Deputies elections as well. OAS election
monitors said the senatorial races should have gone to a runoff vote.
Under the complicated formula Antonio outlined, two sets of elections
will be held next year and a third in 2004.  Hours after Antonio spoke,
the OAS approved a resolution asserting that a settlement of the dispute
over last May's
  elections is essential to the strengthening of democracy in Haiti.
The resolution requested OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria consult
with government, opposition and civil society  groups with a view toward
promoting a dialogue to end the crisis. He was asked to issue a progress
report by May 2.
  Members of Haiti's opposition Democratic Convergence distributed a
statement at OAS headquarters criticizing the Haitian  government
approach.  ``The maneuvers of Mr. Jean Bertrand Aristide to negotiate
with the international community without the participation of  major
political actors of the opposition can only complicate the crisis,'' the
statement said.  The convergence does not refer to Aristide as
``president,'' because it refuses to accept his election last November.
It has  named an alternate president.
  Criticism of the May 21 election stems from Haiti's perceived
violation of a provision requiring a runoff if no candidate  receives
more than 50 percent of the vote. The United States and other countries
alleged Aristide's Senate candidates were  declared winners even though
they lacked clear majorities.  The festering dispute prompted major
opposition parties in Haiti to boycott the November presidential
elections.  After Antonio spoke, U.S. delegate Thomas Shannon expressed
regret that OAS efforts to help Haiti overcome the  long-running
controversy have yet to bear fruit.
  ``Haiti remains at a political impasse,'' Shannon said. ``The
consequences of this impasse have been to block Haiti's  political,
economic and social advancement.
  ``This is a tragedy for Haiti, the Caribbean and the entire
  In late December, Aristide sent a letter to then-President Clinton
(news - web sites) in which he pledged to implement  governmental and
political reforms.
  Aristide promised to create a credible electoral council; to increase
U.S.-Haitian cooperation on narcotics trafficking; to  form more
professional police, military and judiciary systems; to strengthen
democratic institutions; and to protect human
  rights.  The United States gives Haiti $47 million in relief aid
annually, which is channeled through nongovernment organizations.