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8221: Yielding to world pressure, Haiti pledges new elections at OAS , meeting (fwd)
From: radman <email@example.com>
Yielding to world pressure, Haiti pledges new elections at OAS meeting
Updated: Mon, Jun 04
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (CP) - Foreign ministers from the Americas wrestled on
Monday with a proposal from Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
promising new, partial elections in exchange for millions of aid dollars.
Haiti's May 2000 legislative elections were condemned as flawed by the
Organization of American States, whose foreign ministers are holding their
annual meeting this week in Costa Rica.
International officials are afraid the controversy could endanger the
impoverished island's struggling democracy. Opposition politicians complain
that seven senatorial candidates from Aristide's Lavalas Family Party were
able to avoid second-round runoff elections because officials bent rules
about the way votes were computed.
Alfred Ramdin, secretary-general of the Caribbean Community, said Aristide,
in a letter to the meeting of foreign ministers of the OAS, promised
elections for the disputed seats before year's end. Aristide also promised
early elections for the House of Assembly and a third of Senate seats in
"It goes beyond promises. It is a commitment to action (with) a time frame
set," Ramdin said.
In Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, Senator Gerard Gilles of Lavalas
said all seven Lavalas senators whose elections had been disputed resigned
Monday. An official announcement was expected later Monday.
Ramdin said Aristide was responding to internal and external pressures,
including threats of international isolation and abandonment even by
Haiti's "last remaining friends - the Caribbean Community."
The rest of the world, Ramdin said, was tired of Haiti's political morass
and months of promises without action from Aristide.
Ramdin said Aristide also promised that by June 25 he would appoint a new
electoral council with representatives from all political parties,
including the main opposition coalition, Convergence.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley, who is attending the
meeting in Costa Rica's capital, said on Monday that Canada will provide up
to $540,000 Cdn for seven projects to strengthen democracy, encourage
judicial reform and reduce corruption in the Americas.
"These projects are concrete demonstrations of Canada's commitment to . . .
promoting peace and democracy in our hemisphere," said Manley.
Back in Haiti, opposition leaders were rejecting Aristide's proposal,
though precise details had not been made public. They have demanded
complete new elections, not merely those for the seven contested seats.
Aristide agreed to cut short the terms of all members of the House of
Assembly and of a third of the Senate to allow elections next year, Ramdin
said. Another third of senate seats would be up for grabs in November 2003,
Aristide's party won 80 per cent of seats in disputed elections last year.
While the OAS questioned "the manipulation" of vote-counting that awarded
at least seven senate seats to Lavalas, opposition leaders in Haiti
question the entire electoral process, saying it was rigged from the start
by an electoral council stuffed with Aristide supporters.
"The proposal is far from acceptable," said Mischa Gaillard, an opposition
leader of Convergence in Port-au-Prince.
"Aristide wants to cut a deal with the international community, excluding
the Haitian opposition from the agreement," he said. "His sole aim is to
have the funds which are being held up unblocked."
Aristide had asked the OAS to help unblock tens of millions of dollars in
international aid suspended because of the tainted elections.
Ramdin said the Caribbean Community, once it sees Aristide is acting on his
proposals, "would be willing to support the normalization of relations
between Haiti and international monetary institutions."
Also Monday, Haitian police released an opposition leader, former
representative Gabriel Fortune, two weeks after he was arrested and charged
with attempted murder, Haiti's independent Radio Metropole reported.
The opposition had said it would not negotiate with the government unless
Fortune was released.
Police arrested Fortune in the southcoast town of Les Cayes after an armed
attack on a meeting of opposition politicians in which three people,
Aristide partisans, were shot and wounded.
He was released on his own recognizance and still faces charges.