Uncertainty as Haiti’s President demits office

10 February 2016

Volume 39, Number 6

Haiti’s Prime Minister, Evans Paul, has called on protesting Haitians to end weeks of sometimes violent demonstrations and participate in a national debate about the country’s future.

Speaking on February 7 after the President Michel Martelly had stepped down the day before without a successor, following a failed second round electoral process in December (Caribbean Insight January 6, 2016), he said that the way forward was through peace and dialogue.

His remarks followed a last minute agreement reached over the weekend of February 6-7 whereby he will remain in office as Prime Minister until Haiti’s Parliament chooses an interim President and after that a Prime Minister chosen on the basis of consensus.

The present interim arrangement, which is intended to lead to fresh elections but has a far from certain outcome, was instituted despite its rejection by a group of eight opposition leaders that includes the main opposition Presidential candidate, Jude Celestin, who was beaten in first round election in October 2015, and is widely regarded as fraudulent. Then Jovenel Moise, the candidate backed by President Martelly, came first, leading to a subsequently cancelled second round run off which Mr Celestin declined to participate in.

Speaking to the local and international media, Mr Celestin rejected the weekend agreement, saying that the parliament that approved it was elected in the same questionable manner and should not choose an interim administration. Instead he and the group want a Supreme Court judge to choose the President.

In other developments, United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, welcomed the agreement reached noting that it provided for immediate arrangements that preserve institutional continuity. He however called on all actors concerned to implement what had been agreed in order to ensure the democratic transfer of power to elected officials. He also called for measures aimed at fostering calm and stability.

What now happens is unclear as speaking to Reuters on February 8, Mr Evans, the Prime Minister, was quoted as saying: “My fundamental role is to encourage dialogue among all sectors, including those that were not part of the agreement. Beyond the legislative and executive branches, we also need to involve the judiciary.”

The agreement reached over the February 6-7 weekend when President Martelly’s constitutional term in office expired, requires the Haitian Parliament to select a president within a matter of days with the objective that fresh elections take place on April 24 and an elected President takes office by May.

Whether this is achievable is far from certain as violent street protests have continued and Haiti does not have a good track record in either maintaining electoral timetables or ending provisional governments, a process that has sometimes taken years.

 

 

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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