The announcement late yesterday by the ruling government council of a long-awaited schedule for national elections did surprisingly little to calm the political ferment in this increasingly divided nation, politicians and diplomats said today.
Some politicians who had been pressing the three-man council, headed by Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, for an elections calendar expressed satisfaction with the plan for inauguration of a new president on Feb. 7, 1988.
Other political figures complained that Namphy had sidestepped a more immediate issue of the ongoing role in his government of military officers and civilians said to be linked to ousted president Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.
Quiet prevailed throughout the country today, after a week of street protests in which two persons were killed. But a loose alliance of more than 30 small organizations that had scheduled a general strike Tuesday was meeting to consider holding it, or some other protest, to demand the resignation of some Cabinet members, despite the vote pledge.
Namphy appears to be headed for yet another tense round in his contest to establish some minimum political order among Haitians, whose aspirations exploded after Duvalier fled Feb. 7. The government's announcement yesterday said a first round of elections, for members of a constituent assembly, would be in October. In July 1987, Haitians are to choose local representatives, then vote for president four months later.
Sylvio Claude, head of the Christian Democrat Party and a tenacious opponent of the Duvalier government, said the calendar was ill-timed. "It's not me -- it's the people who are not satisfied," he said. "This wasn't any longer the right moment to talk about elections."
Claude is a main force among organizations demanding the resignation of council member Col. Williams Regala, who they claim is a Duvalier associate, and Finance Minister Leslie Delatour. Delatour, a former World Bank economist, is accused of overstepping the limits of the power of an interim government by trying to divest five money-losing state-run enterprises.
In February, Claude warned there would be massive demonstrations if Namphy failed to set the elections agenda soon.
"Namphy didn't give anything," said Lafontant Joseph, secretary general of the Haitian Human Rights League, an independent watchdog group. Joseph argued that the elections could be tainted unless Namphy carries out a fuller purge of Duvalier supporters from the Haitian public administration and the Army.
"If Namphy insists on stalling, soon the people will be calling for his head, too," Joseph said.
Gregoire Eugene, veteran chief of the centrist Social Christian Party, said he is pleased with the pace of the electoral program. He described those rejecting it as "an alliance of communists, recently returned exiles with no support and politicians who have no natural popularity."
Economist Marc Bazin, thought to be a strong presidential hopeful, called the schedule "a good step" but urged the council to set up a commission to hear the complaints of Haitians who want new purges.