Haiti’s parliament became powerless
Monday as the terms of most legislators expired while a political impasse
kept the country from holding new elections.
   The legislative impasse comes a day after the largest march yet against
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, compounding the turmoil that has engulfed
this Caribbean island in recent months.
   A spate of anti-government demonstrations in the past four months has
left at least 46 people dead and more than 100 wounded. Both sides blame
each other for the violence, but most of the deaths have been
anti-government protesters.
   The legislative dilemma is rooted in disputed elections held in May
2000. The opposition has refused to participate in new elections unless
Aristide resigns. Hehas refused.
   Out of the 27-seat senate, four senators’ terms expired Monday. Eight
had previously resigned, leaving just 15 members. In addition to the
senate, all 83 members of the Chamber of Deputies’ terms expired.
   “The government will continue. Aristide will not govern by executive
decree,” said Sen. Clones Lans, whose term expired. “But elections are
important. We cannot continue indefinitely without a parliament.”
   The senate can continue meeting with a 14-member quorum but no new laws
will be passed and no pending loans can be ratified. The new budget was
passed before the legislators’ terms expired.
   Former senator and opposition leader Paul Denis said the legislative
crisis is the latest blow to Aristide’s embattled administration.
   “The moment of Aristide’s fall from power is approaching,” Denis said.
“There is no parliament, but he and his government intend to rule in spite
of their illegality.”
   Aristide is the country’s first freely elected leader who won by a
landslide but was overthrown in a coup in 1991. He was restored in a 1994
U.S. invasion but forced to step down in 1996 due to a term limit.
   He won his second term in 2000 and he says he plans to serve out his
term until 2006. He is barred from running for a third term.