Thursday, February 23, 2006


Aristide to Return to Haiti?

Following the election of René Garcia Préval to the Presidency of Haiti, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide vowed that he would return to his country. Préval had served as Aristide’s Prime Minister from February 13 to October 11, 1991, and is considered a protégé of the former President.

Préval was named President after authorities, keen on avoiding further violence and bloodshed, agreed on February 16 to redistribute more than 80,000 blank votes (reportedly just over 4% of the total tally) on a pro-rata basis between the candidates, giving Préval 51.2 percent of the votes, rather than the 49.8 percent he had when the blank ballots were included in the total. A result less than 50 percent would have forced a runoff with second-place candidate Leslie Manigat. Manigat called the agreement "the imposition of a victor" and claimed it was "a reward for violence".

Préval had claimed that fraud prevented him from winning on the first round and called for an investigation. A Haitian television station had reported the discovery of thousands of ballots which were thrown out at a garbage dump near Cite Soleil. Some of them were cast in favor of Préval, and UN officials expressed concern because the bags were only supposed to include blank and annulled votes.

With the election finally resolved, the prospect of a return of Aristide brought mixed responses. Jonathan Clayton, writing for the Times of Britain, cited analysts as saying Aristide “would be deeply destabilizing and polarizing, and would destroy Mr. Préval’s hopes of reaching out to Haiti’s business elite — who orchestrated the ousting of the former President — the masses and the international community.” In an interview with that reporter, Aristide denied he had aspirations of returning to power: “I always knew that when I was elected my mandate would come to an end. My mandate ended and that is that.”

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