PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- In a breakthrough agreement, President
Rene Preval and six opposition parties signed an accord which may lead
Haiti out of its nearly two-year-long political impasse, politicians said
"This agreement will permit the formation of a new government and the
formation of a provisional electoral council," said former capital mayor Evans
Paul, in an interview.
Paul, spokesman for the National Front for Change and Democracy, a
coalition of center-left parties, is a member of the Space for Agreement, a
group of six political parties which has been negotiating off and on with
Preval for a month.
Robert Manuel, national security undersecretary, signed on behalf of Preval.
The agreement was reached Saturday, three days after the United Nations
Security Council urged Haitians to overcome their differences and set up a
credible provisional electoral council which would organize free and early
The agreement stipulated that a commission, composed of representatives
the three branches of government, would work out a way to fill the
institutional vacuum created when Preval shut down Parliament Jan. 11.
The new government and nine-member electoral council will be composed
of honest and trustworthy members capable of obtaining a national
consensus, Paul said.
"But none of our parties will obtain government Cabinet posts," said Serge
Gilles, leader of the socialist Revolutionary National Progressive party, who
also signed the agreement.
One possible weakness in the agreement was the withdrawal from
negotiations of the Struggling People's Organization, the former majority
party in Parliament. The group withdrew on Tuesday, the day after one of its
members, Sen. Jean-Yvon Toussaint, was assassinated.
Police arrested a suspect two days later, but the leader of the party,
Pierre-Charles, said his party would not return to the negotiating table until
"full light has been cast on the crime."
Pierre-Charles also warned, before the agreement was reached, that it
would "lack credibility without our support."
Still, the agreement raises hopes for the first time in months that Haiti
find a way out of a political impasse that has held up millions of dollars in
foreign aid, left the government barely functioning and raised fears that the
fledgling democracy would be replaced by a new dictatorship.
Preval had been accused by opponents of wanting to establish a dictatorship
after he shut down parliament, claiming members' terms had expired, and
pledged to form a new government by decree.
Haiti has been without a fully effective government since June 1997, when
then-Premier Rosny Smarth resigned, accusing Preval of complicity in
elections allegedly rigged in favor of candidates endorsed by former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Preval's predecessor and mentor.
Mired in a power struggle with Preval, lawmakers blocked three of Preval's
nominees for premier.
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.