samedi 4 septembre 2010

President René Préval's meetings with candidates puzzle Haitians

Source:, Posted on Friday, september 3, 2010


PORT-AU-PRINCE -- There was the quiet meeting with a snubbed, former Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis followed days later by the well-publicized encounter with Wyclef Jean, the night before he was booted from Haiti's upcoming presidential tourney.

Then last Friday, Haitian President René Préval traveled to the home of Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady and the lone presidential candidate from Haiti's traditional opposition class.

Almost everyone is wondering: What is Préval up to?

Manigat declined to discuss the conversation as did former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune. Both are among at least seven presidential hopefuls whom the president has met with in recent weeks.

``If the president wants to talk about his meeting with me that is up to him. I will not be the one to talk about the content of that meeting,'' Neptune, one of the 19 who made the final cut to be on the Nov. 28 ballot, told The Miami Herald. ``He invited me and I accepted. I went there and listened to him.''

For Neptune, the meeting was on the crumbled presidential palace grounds. Jean traveled to Préval's home in the hills above Petionville. Following their conversation, the hip hop star who is still fighting his disqualification from the race by Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), told The Herald that Préval spoke of wanting to have clean elections. He later put him on the phone with his his presidential pick, Jude Célestin, the former head of the government reconstruction firm.

Either way, Préval's meetings with the candidates, weeks before the campaigning officially kicks off later this month, has become the topic du jour in an otherwise quiet electoral landscape.

``I think it's a spectacle for the international community,'' said Robert Fatton, a Haiti born political science expert at the University of Virginia, who is closely following the presidential race.

He said that Préval wants to ``show that `I am the president of all Haitians. I am not going to get involved in the CEP. These are going to be transparent elections.' ''

But Préval may be sending mixed signals, Fatton and others warn, especially given the number of contenders in the race who are somehow close to his government.

``He's all over the map. If you are Célestin, you may have some questions, `What the heck is he doing?' '' Fatton said. ``I believe that Préval is not in his own mind clear who should be his dauphin.''

Initially, that person was assumed to be Alexis. But blocked by members of Préval's platform, Alexis quit and aligned himself with another party. Now he seems to be gearing up for a counter Préval campaign.

``I am not the candidate of René Préval,'' Alexis told The Herald, acknowledging that the two did build some things together but today, ``I am not on the same road as he.''

So far, at least one candidate has publicly turned down Préval's invitation.

``President Préval is the one who put himself in opposition against all of the candidates who are not his candidates,'' said Jean-Henry Céant, a lawyer and notary, who declined Préval's invitation. ``He's put five candidates against me.''

Those candidates, Céant said, are Alexis, the two-time Préval prime minister; Célestin, a Swiss-educated engineer; Leslie Voltaire, the government liaison to the U.N. Special Envoy who has been involve in reconstruction planning; Jean Hector Anacasis, a former senator who has been supportive of Préval; and Yves Cristallin, a founder of Préval's INITE platform who has come under fire for not resigning until late this week from his job as minister of social affairs after being qualified to run.

Fatton said Préval will have to make his position clear -- very soon.

``He's going to have to decide fairly soon. The candidates are not stupid,'' he added. ``Préval doesn't do anything without knowing what the consequences are going to be for the political system in Haiti. He's letting the candidates expose themselves and he will see where the population is, and he will go that way.''

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