HAITIAN Prime Minister Robert Malval has confirmed that his impending resignation is ``irrevocable.'' But finding a replacement for the moderate businessman, who was able to appeal to both the military and the constitutional government, will not be easy.
Although Mr. Malval has been little more than a figurehead since taking office three months ago, his presence broke the stronghold of the de facto government, signaling the first constitutional representation since the president's exile 26-months ago. Malval has agreed to stay on until parliament ratifies his replacement.
The prime minister's decision to resign, according to an adviser to his Cabinet and others, was an attempt to end the masquerade his government represented. This may force all the major players to put their cards on the table. Malval hoped to achieve this by holding what he called an ``assembly for national salvation.'' He hoped to bring together all sectors of society before Christmas, but no date had been set.
Malval went to Rome this week to seek the Vatican's support for his talks. ``We want to meet the Vatican to ask that it join its moral voice to what we are about to do,'' he said before leaving on Tuesday. Malval met with church officials yesterday, but a Vatican spokesman declined to say how the church would intervene. Military favors Vatican
The Vatican was the first state to recognize the military government after the 1991 coup that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The military, which refuses to abide by the United Nations-sponsored agreement to restore democracy, originally requested the Vatican to mediate an end to the crisis.
The Haitian military has issued no statement on Malval's retirement or the talks. The military boycotted a previous invitation to negotiate, instigated by the UN, just after the deadline expired for Mr. Aristide's return.
This time the international community will not be involved. President Clinton has endorsed the upcoming conference, and on Dec. 13 and 14, the United States will join Venezuela and Canada in Paris to discuss the Haitian crisis.
Some political opponents are delighted that Malval is resigning, and they have already indicated they will not participate in the conference. They are demanding a constitutional solution that would require new elections.
Some Aristide supporters have expressed reservations about the framework of the conference. Sitting down for talks 27 months into the crisis will not resolve it, they say, particularly with the very people responsible for the current situation. There has already been posturing by both camps for the vacant position.
Others have expressed concern that the prime minister's resignation could jeopardize any progress gained from the Governors Island Accord.
``Malval was appointed as prime minister with the specific objectives of the Governors Island Accord,'' Senate President Firmin Jean-Louis says. ``His resignation could imply it is now nonactive. To date, there is no other alternative.''
Malval has indicated that the national conference will operate under the Governors Island Accord, which calls for the resignation of Army commander Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras and Police Chief Lt. Col. Michel Francois. Signed by Aristide and General Cedras, the pact outlined the transition from military to civilian rule in Haiti, calling for Aristide's return on Oct. 30.
``The problem with the Governors Island Accord is not the agreement itself,'' says economist Leslie Delatour, whose name has been bantered about as a possible candidate for the next prime minister. ``It's enforcing it. What are the penalties for noncompliance? If it's the embargo, they've burned their best card. Either there's no stick or the carrot is too small.'' Sanctions remain
The UN Security Council imposed an oil and arms embargo here seven weeks ago. It has also slapped specific sanctions on the military and its allies. But the Security Council remains opposed to tightening sanctions.
Meanwhile, the military high-command here appears to be playing a wait-and-see game. If the press continues to focus attention on the humanitarian toll of the embargo, the international community may reconsider its position. By playing for time, the military may be hoping for a more flexible and favorable solution than that outlined in the accord.