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8246: AP FWD - Foreign officials consider offer of new Haiti voting (fwd)
Foreign officials consider offer of new Haiti voting
By Michelle Faul
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - Foreign ministers from the Americas and Haitian
politicians yesterday discussed a proposal from Haitian President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide that promised 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 San Jose. International officials fear the
controversy could endanger the impoverished island's struggling democracy.
Opposition politicians say seven senatorial candidates from Aristide's
Lavalas Family Party were able to avoid second-round runoff elections because
officials bent rules governing the way votes were computed.
Alfred Ramdin, secretary-general of the Caribbean Community, said Aristide,
in a letter to the meeting of OAS foreign ministers, promised elections for
the disputed seats before year's end. Aristide also promised early elections
for the House of Assembly and one-third of the Senate seats in November 2002.
"It goes beyond promises," Ramdin said. "It is a commitment to action [with]
a time frame set."
In Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, Sen. Gerard Gilles of Lavalas said
all seven Lavalas senators whose elections had been disputed had resigned
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.
But even as Ramdin spoke, opposition leaders in Haiti were rejecting the
proposal, though precise details had not been made public. They have demanded
complete new elections, not merely new voting for the seven contested seats.
Ramdin said Aristide also had promised that by June 25 he would appoint a new
electoral council with representatives from all political parties, including
the main opposition coalition, Convergence.
"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 asked the OAS to help unblock tens of millions of dollars in
international aid that had been 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."