Haiti to Elect Assembly in ’86, President in ’87 : Announcement Should Help to Curb Growing Anti-Government Unrest, Justice Minister Says
Haitians will elect a constituent assembly this year and a new president by the end of 1987, the provisional government’s minister of justice said Friday.
It was the first official announcement of target dates for elections since dictatorial President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier was driven from power Feb. 7.
Justice Minister Francois Latortue said the electoral process, to be set in motion next week, should help ease unrest that has fueled anti-government protests for the past five days.
“I think that will defuse the situation,” Latortue told three foreign reporters.
2 Killed in Unrest
At least two people have been killed this week in disturbances resulting from the protests. Port-au-Prince was calm Friday, but anti-government demonstrations continued in some provincial cities.
Latortue, 67, said that early next week, the military-led government will issue a decree calling for the election of a constituent assembly that will draft a new constitution. The assembly will be elected in national voting “before the end of the year--September, October, something like that,” he said.
When the assembly meets, he said, laws will be passed to regulate political parties and future elections.
“The elections will be definitely held by the end of next year,” he said, referring to voting for president, local officials and a national legislature.
Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, president of the ruling National Government Council, had previously promised elections but had announced no timetable.
Haiti’s last freely contested elections were held in 1957. The winner, Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier, turned his administration into a harsh dictatorship that his son inherited on his father’s death in 1971.
Jean-Claude Duvalier fled into exile in France four months ago today after a series of mass protest demonstrations against the regime.
The council that replaced Duvalier has come under increasing public pressure to bring changes to this impoverished Caribbean country. Since Monday, the council has faced a wave of anti-government demonstrations in key cities, including Port-au-Prince, the capital.
New Unrest Reported
Demonstrations were reported Friday in the cities of Petit Goave and Les Cayes, both southwest of the capital. In Gonaives, north of here, crowds of anti-government demonstrators from two different sections of the city clashed with each other, according to radio reports.
Early Thursday, the government warned that it would take stern measures to repress disruptive demonstrations, and Namphy said the wave of protests had brought the country to “the edge of anarchy.”
Later Thursday, Latortue held an unprecedented meeting with about 30 civic activists and leaders of political groups.
“It was just to have an exchange of views, because the situation was getting tough,” Latortue said. “They have presented some complaints, and we are going to examine the complaints, and we hope there will be a solution.”
Meeting Called ‘Constructive’
Raphael Bazin, leader of a new political group, said that the meeting was “constructive.” “I think they should have done it a long time ago,” he added.
Latortue said most of those in the meeting agreed on the need for steps toward elections.
“People think we have been too slow in announcing this electoral process,” he said. “We cannot say they are wrong.”
Some politicians who attended the meeting with Latortue said the government must also deal with demands for the removal of two high government officials. They are Col. Williams Regala, a member of the three-man ruling council and minister of the armed forces, and Lesly Delatour, the finance minister.
Regala is said to be unpopular because he symbolizes pro-Duvalier officials who have remained in public office since Feb. 7. Delatour has been criticized because he has proposed that government-owned enterprises, inefficient but large employers, be closed down or sold off.
Election Plans Lauded
Hubert de Ronceray, one of many Haitians who hope to become presidential candidates, said the election plans are “very positive” but that they solve only part of the current political problem.
“Mr. Regala and Mr. Delatour are the key point of the crisis,” Ronceray said. “These two men must resign.”
Evans Paul, a political activist who attended the meeting with Latortue, said that Regala and Delatour are “vehicles” for the expression of general discontent. The government’s election plans, he said, are “demagogic steps” aimed at soothing political unrest and stopping protest.
Paul, 30, said that Haitians will not accept election plans unless the people help make them.