The Miami Herald
January 5, 2001

 Alliance to challenge Haiti's rulers


 Opposition wants new vote


 What Haiti's opposition politicians couldn't do themselves, president-elect
 Jean-Bertrand Aristide has done for them -- he brought them together.

 A month before Aristide is to take office, those political parties have coalesced
 into an alliance that plans to challenge his legitimacy by calling for an alternative
 government. They also plan to call for new elections.

 This development has led to bitter charges from Aristide's allies, including
 President René Preval, who characterized the plan for an alternative government
 as ``political madness, but it has to be taken seriously.''

 Prime Minister JacquesEdouard Alexis called the opposition a ``bunch of lunatics''
 and said the government won't tolerate any attempt to overthrow it.

 Opposition leaders vow they are not mounting a coup d'etat. At a meeting
 attended by about 800 people on Wednesday in Port-au-Prince, leaders of the
 Convergence Democratique, as the alliance is known, said they are setting up a
 national unity government to get Haiti out of its morass.

 ``We want to get to a consensus to propose an alternative and provisional
 government to Mr. Aristide because we don't recognize his legitimacy,'' said
 Gerard Pierre-Charles, a leader of the coalition. ``Everyone is aware that what
 happened in the elections in May and November was a farce to hide what was, in
 effect, the passing of power to Mr. Aristide.''

 Aristide, facing four unknown candidates, won the Nov. 26 elections with 92
 percent of the vote.

 Leaders of a then-fractious opposition boycotted the voting because Aristide's
 Lavalas party failed to hold a runoff for 10 disputed Senate seats won in legislative
 elections in May.


 Aristide, in a letter to President Clinton last week, pledged to hold those runoff
 elections and to include opposition members in the electoral council. But
 Pierre-Charles dismisses these promises.

 ``We don't give a lot of value to his words,'' he said.

 Analysts say the May elections, when Lavalas won overwhelming control of both
 houses of parliament, and the presidential elections, effectively squeezed out the

 Sensing some support for the notion that the process that brought Aristide into
 office is not credible, the opposition is grabbing the opportunity to make its play,
 said Georges Fauriol.

 ``They're trying to capitalize on this unique moment, where there is dissatisfaction
 in the international community regarding the performance of the political process
 in Haiti,'' said Fauriol, director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic
 and International Studies in Washington.

 However, Fauriol said he had detected no support for an alternative government.

 Pierre-Charles said the opposition is anxious to hear what president-elect George
 W. Bush will say about an Aristide presidency.


 Fauriol suspects the incoming administration will require performance on
 Aristide's pledges before any commitment of financial aid.

 ``There should not be any misunderstanding of the climate in Washington,''
 Fauriol said. ``Either there's going to be performance, and soon, and effectively, or
 there is no basis for any viable or credible policy.''

 Pierre-Charles said the coalition will hold a second forum in the coming weeks,
 this time including unions and religious organizations before setting up a national
 convention. Threats of violence by popular organizations loyal to Aristide does not
 scare away the opposition, he said.

 ``We know that violence is a possibility, but we're going to face it,'' he said.

 ``This is the only way to make sure we'll have stability in Haiti.''