The New York Times
March 17, 1999

Haitian Leader Steps Into Crisis

          By The Associated Press

          PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Haitian President Rene Preval has
          appointed a new electoral council, a widely anticipated move to resolve a
          political crisis that has paralyzed the government for nearly two years.

          In a radio broadcast Tuesday, Preval named a nine-member provisional
          council to organize new legislative elections.

          Haiti has not had a properly functioning government since Premier Rosny
          Smarth resigned in June 1997, charging that partial legislative elections
          held two months before were rigged to favor former President
          Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Preval's mentor.

          Smarth's Struggling People's Organization party a week ago denounced
          his moves to appoint a new council and indicated it would boycott any
          elections set up by the new council.

          That could lead to an election sweep by Aristide's party.

          Politicians in Smarth's party long have accused Preval of deliberately
          creating a crisis in Haiti in a bid to ensure Aristide's return to power.

          Three members of the new council were nominated by five political
          parties with whom Preval reached an agreement. Preval chose the rest.

          None of the five parties that made the agreement had legislators in the
          previous Parliament, which Preval dismissed in January. He acted after
          the Parliament, with a majority from Smarth's party, had rejected four of
          his nominations for a new prime minister.

          Preval then named his own premier, Jacques-Edouard Alexis.

          Haiti's crisis has cost the country hundreds of millions in foreign aid and
          has frightened away foreign investors.

          But several parties that for years have boycotted elections because of
          alleged fraud are unlikely to change their minds because of Preval's

          Nor is Preval likely to rally Haitian voters. Haitians, disappointed that
          promised democracy has not brought prosperity, have come out in fewer
          and fewer numbers as the economy has slumped to ever-lower levels.

          More than 90 percent turned out to elect Aristide as Haiti's first
          democratically elected leader in 1989. He was ousted by a military coup
          and was restored only when 20,000 U.S. troops intervened in 1994.
          Fewer than 30 percent of voters turned out to elect Preval in 1995. Last
          year, only 5 percent voted.