17 February 2016
Volume 39, Number 07
Jocelerme Privert, the President of the Senate who served as interior minister under the former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has been sworn in as Haiti’s interim president following his election by the country’s National Assembly.
The decision follows weeks of civil unrest, the withdrawal of the opposition candidate from the country’s December second round Presidential election on the basis that the first round result was fraudulent, and President Martelly standing down at the end of his constitutional term in office on February 7 with no elected successor (Caribbean Insight February 9, 2016).
Three candidates emerged in the bicameral election process in the National Assembly: Edgard Leblanc Fils, Jocelerme Privert, and Dejean Belizaire. After each had made a brief presentation about himself and his vision in relation to the recent agreement to install an interim President (details Caribbean Insight February 9, 2016), the senators and deputies voted in a secret ballot, with Senator Privert winning both rounds of the voting process. According to Haiti Libre, Mr Privert won the first round by just two votes more than the candidate backed by President Martelly’s party, Mr Leblanc Fils; but won a clear majority in a second round.
The outcome of the two stage vote by the opposition-dominated National Assembly was, according to news agencies, met with elation by allies of former President Aristide who in many cases had been involved in earlier street protests.
Reuters subsequently noted that factions of former President Aristide’s Lavalas movement were heavily represented at the ceremony for President Privert at Haiti’s national palace, which it reported some had not visited since the ex-president was toppled from government in 2004.
Speaking at his swearing in President Privert said: “We have shown that we are able to overcome our differences and our infighting in the benefit of the general interest.” He also committed himself to engaging all sectors in Haitian society in dialogue to complete the elections set for April 24 and to hand over to an elected president by May 14.
President Privert is a member of the Inite political party which was founded by another former President, Rene Preval, who was once close to President Aristide. An accountant by background President Privert is said to be close to the country’s business community.
Uncertainty prevails as to what will happen next. The new President will have to determine who the candidates are to be in fresh Presidential elections. He will have to do so against a background of continuing disagreement over the outcome of the first round last October that resulted in the cancelled second round which was to have been between the candidate of the Ligue Alternative pour le Progres et L’Emancipation Haitienne (LAPEH), Jude Celestin, and the Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK) candidate, Jovenel Moise.
In this it is not now clear how much influence President Aristide’s previously fractious Lavalas movement will have over the next part of Haiti’s troubled electoral process. There is however a view that those who support Lavalas having, as they see it, achieved the interim Presidency, may now not wish to give it up.
Previously when Haiti had an interim government following the removal of President Aristide, it took two years to hold elections.
In a statement, the US Embassy said that it welcomed the election of Mr Privert as Provisional President as a first step in implementing the February 5 accord signed by the President Martelly and the Presidents of the two Chambers of Parliament, ‘to ensure continued governance and the conclusion of the 2015 electoral process’. It called on all parties to work together to complete the process as agreed so that the country could address ‘the serious social and development challenges facing the country.’ Similar calls have come from the UN the EU and other interested parties.
This is an extract from the Caribbean Council’s leading weekly editorially independent publication, Caribbean Insight, which provides in depth information on current economic, political and commercial developments in the Caribbean and news on events in Europe and the US that affect the region. Business people, academics, and those with a general interest in the Caribbean find it an invaluable tool for developing and maintaining knowledge and providing an insight into political, economic and commercial events in the region.
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