Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Egypt, and Haiti

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The situations in Haiti and the Arab world might seem very much different but the two places both have one problem in common -- dictators whose time has come but who are trying desperately to hang on.

Whether Haitian President Rene Preval qualifies as a dictator of the same magnitude as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak depends perhaps on who is talking. Mr. Preval was elected in 2006 in a national and nominally democratic vote but one that raised strong questions in minds of Haitians and international observers. Haitians protesting in the streets in recent days have denounced Mr. Preval in the same kind of language as Egyptians are denouncing Mr. Mubarak; Mr. Preval "must step down to avoid people getting hurt," was how one Haitian in a crowd of demonstrators put it on Monday.

Last week, however, the Haitian leader was served notice that his time is almost up, that finally the political morass left behind by Haiti's rigged presidential elections might be cleaned up. The election council has ruled that Jude Celestin, Mr. Preval's hand-picked heir, will be dropped from the ballot of the run-off presidential election to be held March 20. Mr. Celestin's second-place showing in the first round of voting was almost universally regarded as being the result of vote-rigging. His withdrawal now at least offers Haiti the hope of a free and fair election to replace Mr. Preval by the middle of May.

That won't happen without constant and close supervision by countries such as Canada, nor can it happen without the vigilance and the will of the Haitian people, but it can happen and if it can happen in Haiti -- perhaps the world's messiest nation -- it can happen almost anywhere. Even Haitians can dare to dream.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2011 A10

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