The Miami Herald
October 22, 2000

'A lot of things unsettled' for Haiti vote

OAS official fails in latest effort to resolve growing political crisis


 A senior OAS official left Haiti on Saturday, failing in yet another attempt to
 resolve a deepening political crisis but refusing to say the effort had collapsed
 despite the approach of controversial Nov. 26 presidential elections.

 ``I'm leaving without an overall agreement, with a lot of things unsettled but with
 the outlines of a new direction and with a remarkable amount of goodwill
 beginning to develop,'' Luigi Einaudi, assistant secretary general of the
 Organization of American States, said Saturday in a telephone interview from

 ``There is a greater realism among the parties about the need to find a democratic
 solution for Haiti's future,'' he said.

 Einaudi said he would report to the OAS Permanent Council in Washington on
 Monday and did not rule out the prospect of returning to Haiti again. His most
 recent trip, which he extended by two days, was his third to Haiti in a month.

 ``I don't think it [his effort] has collapsed,'' said Einaudi. ``That's too harsh a
 judgment. ``We did gather agreement around broad principles and people are
 talking. A lot could happen in the next couple of weeks.''

 He did say, however, that for his return, ``the conditions have to be very clear. I
 came down this time to make some things happen. I have made some things
 happen, but I'm not coming down in that spirit again.''

 The ongoing crisis, stemming from disputed May 21 Senate elections, threatens
 the credibility of the November presidential vote and threatens to convert Haiti into
 an international pariah.

 The controversy pits the organized political opposition against the government of
 President René Preval and the Family Lavalas party of former President
 Jean-Bertrand Aristide.


 Aristide is expected easily to win the Nov. 26 vote, which Haiti's political
 opposition is boycotting, and return to the presidency on Feb. 7, 2001, for another
 five-year term. He is running against six unknown candidates who have no
 political party base.

 A pro-Aristide electoral council had given his candidates first-round victories in 18
 of 19 Senate seats on the ballot, despite the fact that an OAS electoral observer
 mission said 10 of the seats should have gone into a second-round runoff.

 The opposition is demanding annulment of the May 21 vote and suspension of the
 new Aristide-dominated parliament seated in August.

 When he departed Saturday for Washington, Einaudi left behind a six-point draft
 document entitled ``Elements of Reflection for a National Accord.''

 The document dealt with security, the May 21 elections, conditions for the Nov.
 26 elections, restructuring of the Provisional Electoral Council, measures to
 reinforce democracy and the role of the international community.


 Had a comprehensive agreement been reached, it is likely that the Nov. 26
 election would have been delayed until Dec. 17, but with the Feb. 7 inauguration
 date holding firm.

 There was, said Einaudi, broad agreement on measures for improving security
 and reinforcement of democracy, such as protection of freedom of expression,
 journalists, political parties and society.

 The stickiest point still evolves on how to resolve the May 21 election dispute. The
 draft document called for the naming of an independent commission to examine
 the election and come up with an acceptable solution.

 ``'There was also a surprising amount of agreement on what a new provisional
 electoral council should look like,'' said Einaudi. And, for the first time, he said he
 managed to arrange five face-to-face meetings between representatives of
 Aristide's party and the opposition, with Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis
 attending as an observer.

 If the Nov. 26 elections go ahead as scheduled, without opposition participation,
 the Clinton administration has already said it would not financially support the
 elections or an international observer mission. In addition, all aid to Haiti would be
 channeled through nongovernmental organizations. The United States would look
 closely at all assistance to Haiti provided by multilateral financial institutions.