Haiti misses deadline for next election
BY MICHAEL NORTON
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Haiti's government failed to meet an OAS deadline on Monday for setting up an electoral council to organize elections next year.
The Organization of American States had urged the government
to have the nine-member council in place by Monday, drawing members from
churches, business associations, human rights groups and political parties.
But by Monday, only the governing Lavalas Family Party had agreed to choose its representative, while more than 20 opposition parties in two blocs said they would boycott the council.
Some groups that didn't name representatives said they first want the government to comply with a Sept. 4 OAS resolution by collecting illegal guns to disarm partisans and by bringing to justice those responsible for past political attacks.
''We are asking the government to set up a disarmament campaign that will satisfy all sectors, and to finalize its agreement with the OAS concerning technical security assistance for the elections,'' Protestant Federation President Edouard Paultre said.
Roman Catholic and Episcopalian leaders also have yet to choose representatives. The three churches and other groups gave the government two weeks to meet their demands. The government didn't immediately issue a response.
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has pledged new elections would be held in a secure environment next year, at a date to be fixed by the new electoral council.
At the end of this month, the terms of 18 of 27 senators and all of the 83 House representatives will expire, leaving Haiti with no legislature when new lawmakers are supposed to take office Jan. 13.
As the standoff wears on, it is unclear whether Haitian officials
might have to extend lawmakers' terms in office or whether Aristide would
rule by decree until new
elections could be held.
Haiti's government and opposition parties have been in a stalemate since flawed May 2000 elections gave most electoral victories to governing party candidates.
The opposition charged the vote was rigged, and the dispute over the holding of new elections has held up hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid.