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U.S. Urges Swift Elections in Haiti

January 16, 1999

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Swift, credible legislative elections are the only way to halt Haiti’s latest political crisis, the U.S. ambassador to this Caribbean country said Friday.

Haiti has been without a prime minister since June 1997. On Monday, after a combative parliament had rejected four of President Rene Preval’s nominees for the position, the president announced he would bypass parliament, and form a new government by decree.

U.S. Ambassador Timothy Michael Carney said the current political crisis needs to be ended quickly.

``The need now is to advance toward credible elections as fast as possible to see what the will of the Haitian people is, to get them out of the political impasse,″ Carney said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Opponents charge that Preval is leading Haiti back to dictatorship, and there are fears of a resurgence of the violence that long plagued the country. On Tuesday, assailants shot and wounded Preval’s sister and killed her driver.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, has suffered through military and civilian dictatorships for most of the past two centuries.

In 1990, more than 95 percent of voters turned out in the country’s first successful democratic elections and chose Aristide, then a Roman Catholic priest, who helped end the 29-year Duvalier family dictatorship.

But the army ousted Aristide and ruled until President Clinton sent 20,000 troops in 1994 to restore democracy.

Elections in 1995 failed to draw 50 percent of voters, and a presidential ballot six months later, won by Preval, had a turnout of less than 30 percent.

The April 1997 elections drew only about 5 percent of voters, and were condemned by several international observers as fraudulent. Plans to hold new elections in November 1998 crumbled.

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