National Assembly Sworn In; Anti-Junta Rally Draws 10,000
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Hours after the new National Assembly pledged to support president-elect Leslie Manigat, 10,000 Haitians rallied at a Roman Catholic Church and vowed they would not.
The demonstration Tuesday was the largest public rally since the protests of last summer when Haitians took to the streets to protest an attempt by the military-dominated junta to take control of elections.
″People without weapons can only demonstrate and shout and sing peacefully. That’s what we’re doing here,″ businessman Charles Millery said at the rally. ″This is a demonstration of opposition to the fraudulent election of Manigat. People are saying, ’No. We don’t want him.‴
Manigat was elected Jan. 17 in junta-run balloting that many potential candidates boycotted and most Haitians ignored.
The vote was to choose a government to replace the junta, which has ruled since Jean-Claude Duvalier fled to exile two years ago, ending a 29-year family dictatorship begun by his father, Francois Duvalier.
Manigat, a 57-year-old university professor and former exile, is to take the oath of office Sunday.
The 94 senators and deputies elected so far were sworn in Tuesday. Many pledged to support Manigat, although they campaigned as independents rather than as partisans of his National Democratic Progressive Rally party.
The bicameral parliament will have 27 senators and 77 deputies. The final 10 deputies, who faced a runoff last Sunday, were to be sworn in later this week.
″As long as he (Manigat) stays within the democratic line, everybody is willing to cooperate with him,″ said Sen. Louis Noisin, 60. ″I will fight for the establishment of a real democracy in Haiti, which can only be done from the inside.″
Robert Benodin, a spokesman for Manigat’s party, told The Associated Press, ″We have made contact with every single legislator here. All have promised to collaborate. There will be no dissention or hostility.″
Many of the candidates for the National Asembly ran unchallenged.
Many potential candidates refused to run in protest after the Nov. 29 national election organized by an independent Electoral Council was aborted because of violence. Thugs killed at least 34 people, many at polling places.
Many senators and deputies elected in the junta-run balloting served under the Duvalier regime.
For example, Sen. Felix Auguste Robinson was prefect of Cap Haitien, Haiti’s second-biggest city, under Duvalier and a presidential candidate in the aborted election until the independent Electoral Council disqualified him because of his ties to the old regime.
Sen. Xavier St. Louis was a Duvalier deputy and vocal defender of the dictatorship. Sen. Emmanuel Clersaint was secretary of state for mining and energy under Duvalier.
The government claimed a 35 percent turnout at the junta-run election. Western observers doubt that claim and opposition leaders have said only about 5 percent of the electorate voted.
One banner at Tuesday’s rally showed a bloody bayonet piercing Haiti’s constitution over the words, ″Haitian people: Stand up now in my defense so I can stand up for your defense later.″ People chanted, ″I count on you. You count on me, too. It’s time to make a chain of solidarity.″