IN OTHER WORDS: Haiti poll
The internationally brokered deal that declared René Préval the winner of last week’s Haitian election provided the best available exit from a worsening situation. It required reinterpreting the election rules after the votes had been counted, which tarnishes the democratic legitimacy this election was supposed to provide.
The outcome faced a more imminent threat from escalating violence by the frustrated Préval supporters who believed that they had been defrauded of a first-round victory. Dispensing with a runoff creates a narrow path forward, if Préval is wise enough to take it. That will require reaching out to his opponents, as well as reining in his violence-prone supporters, many of them inherited from his mentor, the twice-elected, twice-deposed former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Préval did not have a successful first term. The police remained brutal and corrupt. No progress was made toward creating a competent judiciary. Legislative elections were badly flawed. Drug trafficking flourished. Some of the responsibility for that lies with Aristide, the real power. If Préval again lets Aristide run things, those problems could recur. If he tries to keep Aristide at a distance, support for him could shrink. Under any circumstances, Haiti will need international support for a long time.