Date: Sun, 14 Dec 97 13:30:41 CST
From: rich@pencil.CC.WAYNE.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: HAITI: Gridlock Over New Elections
Article: 24040

/** reg.carib: 202.0 **/
** Topic: IPS: POLITICS-HAITI: Gridlock Over New Elections **
** Written 3:09 PM Dec 13, 1997 by newsdesk in cdp:reg.carib **

Gridlock Over New Elections

By Ives Marie Chanel, IPS, 10 December 1997

PORT-AU-PRINCE Dec 10 (IPS)—The bitter infighting over the contested results of April by-elections has caused a major political gridlock in Haiti.

Riding on the outcome, is control of the new Electoral Council, which will oversee general elections in Haiti in 2001. But, before then, the political squabbling will see more casualties among the various parties, observers believe.

President Rene Preval's choice for Prime Minister, Herve Denis, may be the first victim of this ruthless struggle between the Lavalas Political Organization (OPL), and the Lafanmi Lavalas (Lavalas Family) party headed up by ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Lafanmi Lavalas has made clear its intention to fight any annulment of the local and by-election results, which have been branded as fraudulent by the opposition. The elections, which are the principal source of discord among the ruling coalition parties, were to turn over approximately one-third of the 27-seat Haitian Senate, and to decide the composition of new local and department assemblies which would have participated in the creation of the new, permanent Electoral Council.

Denis has not taken sides in the conflict but lacks the authority to help resolve the seven-month-old crisis, political observers opine.

Mistrust is running rampant among the Lavalas factions, even between Preval himself and the parties. It's awful, they are all trapped. Preval is being held hostage, one diplomat said. Denis may be able to show that the country is governable and reassure everyone, but it's a very difficult situation. He cannot play the mediator's role. He can only be the messenger.

The prime minister-designate, who has submitted his formal brief to parliament —including a notarized certificate of identity—could be removed from consideration as premier early in the process, even as soon as members of the House of Deputies review his dossier. OPL leaders have already indicated that party members would reject his candidacy if his dossier was out of order.

A technicality over the legitimacy of his first name was enough to scuttle the candidacy of Eric Pierre, an Inter-American Bank official in charge of Haiti, last August. Pierre was Preval's first choice for the post.

Herve Denis, or, more precisely, Pierre Emmanuel Herve Denis, risks the same fate, some observers believe, althought there rfeal issues remain purely political.

Denis' chances are slim and he needs to explain his position on the current electoral crisis, says Carlo Desinor, editor-in- chief of Haiti's Le Nouvelliste. If Denis gets through the struggle for confirmation, he'll definitely be his own man, beholden to no one. His image and political capital will only come out the stronger.

Preval made it known last week that he will fight for his candidate to be approved, and said that Denis enjoys high approval ratings among various constituencies.

Gerard Pierre Charles, coordinator of the OPL, told IPS that his party had no intention of supporting sham solutions just prop up Denis.

Pierre Charles declared he was ready for sacrifice in the name of the country but not to profit politically. Denis, however, should not count on being confirmed solely on the strength of his own party if no political accord if reached to resolve this electoral crisis.

For Pierre Charles, an acceptable political accord would include political negotiation on forming of a government based on constitutional guidelines, public safety issues, economic policies that meet the expectations of the people. But above all, he wants annulment of the April 6 by-election results and the formation of an balanced and trustworthy electoral council.

The OPL controls a plurality in the House of Deputies with 33 of the 83 votes but holds a clear majority in the Senate with 6 OPL senators and 2 allies in their camp out of the 15 presently seated.

The Louvri Barye (Open Doors) Party, another Lavalas splinter group with 4 senators, has taken the position that the electoral crisis and the failure to find a prime minister are unrelated.

Other smaller parties have not taken a clear position on the matter. Without a government next year, Haiti may be priming itself for more social unrest. Since the resignation in May of OPL- aligned Prime Minister Rosny Smarth, the various parties which compose the ruling coalition have not been able to reach a consensus on forming a new government. Six of 15 ministers tendered their resignation in early November when Smarth actually left office.

The widening economic crisis has plunged most Haitians into despair. International aid is becoming more and more scarce. Several non-governmental organizations hit hard by the reduction in aid have already reduced their staffs and suspended programs.

Nearly two million dollars of the 2.8 billion dollars of aid promised by global financial institutions have been blocked pending Haiti's agreement to apply a program of economic reforms which, in addition to the electoral dispute, constitute another contentious debate in political circles.