Haiti polls in six months

Faced with a rising tide of political unrest, Haiti's beleaguered president has pledged legislative elections within six months.

    President Aristide is under pressure to step down

    Attending the Summit of the Americas in the Mexican city of Monterrey, President Jean Bertrand Aristide however said the exact date of the elections would be decided later.

    "The exact date has not been established. It will be necessary to speak with the opposition to find the best time," Aristide said.

    But the opposition swiftly rejected the presidential pledge and said Aristide's assurance rang hollow.

    "These are statements for external use. Everyone knows he cannot organise elections in six months except elections for the ruling Lavalas party," alleged opposition spokesman Serge Gilles.

    Resignation demanded

    Instead, Gilles said the opposition wanted an agreement between political parties under which Aristide leaves office.

    Huge street demonstrations in recent days in Haiti have brought Aristide under immense pressure.

    On Monday, students staged new demonstrations, one day after between 20,000 and 30,000 people took part in one of the biggest rallies yet against the president in Port-au-Prince.

    The opposition has been demanding that Aristide step down since legislative elections in May 2000, which opponents said were fixed by the ruling Lavalas.

    Aristide has been accused of corruption and mismanagement. He still has two years of his five-year term to serve and is refusing to step down.

    Undaunted by the opposition campaign, Aristide is also keeping a brave face.

    "I am very pleased to organise these elections so I propose the next semester for dialogue both with opposition entities, civil society and businessmen," he said.

    "Let's now go to the elections to see what the percentage is of those who are going to vote for us, and what it is with the rest," Aristide added.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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