December 16, 1998

Senate certifies man nominated to be Haiti's next premier


                  PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- The Haitian Senate has taken the first
                  step toward possibly ending an 18-month political stalemate, certifying the
                  man nominated for premier as eligible to head a new government.

                  The Senate declared Jacques-Edouard Alexis's age, citizenship, and deeds
                  to property in conformity with the law. However, it did not rule on a
                  controversial audit of the 51-year-old education minister's management of
                  public funds. The audit was favorable to Alexis.

                  It is likely the 83-seat Chamber of Deputies will certify his eligibility when it
                  votes, probably within a few days.

                  Alexis also has enough support in the lower house to win the necessary 42
                  votes of confidence in his general policy statement, the next step toward
                  approval. It is uncertain, however, whether Alexis can win the necessary 14
                  votes of confidence in the Senate.

                  In June 1997, then-Premier Rosny Smarth resigned in protest over elections
                  allegedly slanted in favor of candidates endorsed by former President
                  Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Since then, the power struggle between Smarth's
                  majority party and Aristide's handpicked successor, President Rene Preval,
                  has blocked the installation of a new premier.

                  The impasse has dashed hopes for stability fostered in 1994, when 20,000
                  U.S. troops intervened to end three years of military-backed rule, restore
                  Aristide to power and stem the exodus of Haitian boat people to Florida.

                  In the impasse, legislation has frozen and there has been no government
                  budget for two years. Foreign and domestic investors have shied away, and
                  millions of dollars in foreign aid are on hold.

                  Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.