Aristide Forces See Opposition Collapse: Haiti's Economic Reforms, International Assistance Appear in Jeopardy

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The resignation this week of Haitian Premier Rosny Smarth, who accused his opponents of election fraud, has given anti-reform candidates led by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide a clear field in runoff elections Sunday, analysts said yesterday.

The outcome could decide the future of Haitian economic reforms - privatization of utilities, government downsizing and lowered tariffs - demanded by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in exchange for aid.

"Clearly the political forces of Aristide and [Haitian President] Rene Preval have the upper hand," said Georges Fauriol, Americas program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The question now is who will replace Smarth."

One name being mentioned is Eric Pierre, an Interamerican Development Bank economist. He is considered acceptable to the international lending institutions but is in sync politically with Mr. Preval and the anti-reform movement.

Mr. Smarth, the point man for unpopular free-market reforms, resigned Monday, charging fraud in the April 6 first round of elections to pick nine senators.

Outside election observers, including the International Republican Institute and the Organization of American States, also denounced the vote. Turnout was below 5 percent, and there were allegations that ballot boxes were stuffed in some districts.

Only two of the nine seats up for election in the 27-seat Senate were decided, and both went to candidates from the opposition Lavalas Family party of Mr. Aristide. The other seven are to be decided Sunday.

Mr. Smarth has called for the runoffs to be postponed and for the April 6 voting to be repeated. But the Electoral Council, which is controlled by Aristide sympathizers, refused that request Tuesday.

The resignation of Mr. Smarth and his Cabinet comes before a planned boycott of Sunday's voting by all but the pro-Aristide candidates. …