Sun, Feb 19, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Haiti's Preval meets with politicians

AP , PORT-AU-PRINCE

Haitian President-elect Rene Preval shakes hands with a photographer in Peguy-Ville, a suburb of the capital, Port au Prince, on Friday.

PHOTO: AP

Haitian President-elect Rene Preval worked to smooth the roiled political waters that followed his turbulent election victory, meeting in private with political leaders as Haitians waited to hear his plans to form a new government.

Preval continued to keep a low profile on Friday. A day after being declared the winner of the Feb. 7 elections, he postponed a news conference until Wednesday and remained inside his sister's gated house in Peguy-Ville, a suburb in the hills east of the capital, where he has been meeting with politicians of various stripes.

Among them was Chavannes Jeune, who finished fourth in the election with about 5 percent of the vote.

Haitians, meanwhile, waited to hear how Preval plans to deal with violence and poverty in Haiti and his stance on his former mentor, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former slum priest living in exile after being ousted as president by a violent rebellion two years ago.

"Preval has always preached reconciliation," said Volcy Assad, Preval's campaign manager.

"It's logical that he's meeting political leaders," Assad said.

Fritz Longchamp, one of Preval's campaign coordinators, said that the president-elect wants to forge a parliamentary coalition.

"He has begun a dialogue with some political leaders," Longchamp said, without elaborating.

In New York, the UN Security Council said it looks forward to working with the new government and called on Haitians to redouble their efforts to promote political dialogue and national reconciliation.

A statement adopted by the 15 council members applauded the Haitian people "for their patience and continuing commitment to democracy."

More details emerged, meanwhile, on the behind-the-scenes negotiating that led to Preval being declared the winner earlier this week, as the troubled Caribbean nation was paralyzed by protests amid allegations results were being rigged to deny him a first-round victory.

Preval had been a hair short of an outright majority with more than 90 percent of the vote tabulated. Haitian officials decided in a meeting on Wednesday to divide the 85,000 blank ballots cast among the candidates in proportion to the percentage they had already received. That gave Preval just over 51 percent and outright victory.

If Preval had fallen short of a majority, he would have faced a second-round election in March against second-place finisher, Leslie Manigat.

Chilean Ambassador Marcel Young said his country and Brazil sought to resolve the election dispute with Haitian authorities as the nation teetered on the brink of upheaval, with tens of thousands of Preval supporters taking to the streets claiming fraud.

"We expressed our worry and I think it produced healthy dialogue and helped lead to a quick solution," Young said.

Manigat, also a former president, has accused election officials of breaking the rules to give Preval a first-round victory.

Charles Henri Baker, the third-place finisher, all but accused Preval of fraud.

"There was no clear winner in the first round," Baker said.

"What happened was that Haiti's future president took hold of the results," he said.

Maryse Narcisse, a spokeswoman for Aristide, declined to say whether Aristide and Preval had been in contact.

The US government believes that the return of Aristide could destabilize the country and has hinted that he should remain in exile in South Africa.

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