by Jacqueline Charles. Originally posted at the Miami Herald
The former head of Haiti’s Senate and National Assembly was elected the country’s interim president Sunday after a vote that went to a second round and took nearly 12 hours.
Jocelerme Privert, 62, beat out two other candidates — both were former Senate presidents as well — to lead a 120-day provisional government charged with organizing Haiti’s twice postponed presidential and partial legislative runoffs.
His historic election is part of an accord that hopes to address the constitutional and institutional crises created by former President Michel Martelly’s departure from office. Martelly left office a week ago Sunday without an elected successor because of the disputed Oct. 25 presidential first round.
Opposition parties and local watchdog groups have been insistent that the vote was marred by “massive” fraud in favor of Martelly’s handpicked successor, Jovenel Moïse. A relatively unknown serial entrepreneur who goes by the moniker “Banana Man,” Moïse, has denied the allegations.
Still, the allegations have triggered violent street protests, calls for a vote verification and a boycott by opposition presidential candidate Jude Célestin . Célestin qualified for the runoff against Moïse but said he will not participate in a second round until, among other things, the recommendations of an electoral commission charged with evaluating the vote are applied.
Continue reading Former Senate leader selected provisional president of Haiti
by Frances Robles. Originally posted at The New York Times
Thirty years to the day after Haiti’s last dictator fled the impoverished nation as it took its first wobbly steps toward democracy, another leader stepped down Sunday, without a successor to take his place.
The president, Michel Martelly, left office amid an electoral crisis that underscored how Haiti has struggled to maintain democratic order since the 1986 ouster of Jean-Claude Duvalier.
Mr. Martelly departed at the end of his five-year term, thanks to a last-minute agreement that laid out steps to choose a provisional government to take his place. Although the agreement left major doubts about who will govern the nation in the months to come, experts hailed it as an important move toward at least temporarily resolving a political impasse that had put hundreds of protesters on the streets.
At least one person was beaten to death Friday, as former army soldiers supporting Mr. Martelly hit the streets to counter protests that demanded his ouster.
“I said I would not hand over power to those that don’t believe in elections, but the Parliament guaranteed that they will do everything to make sure the process carries on,” Mr. Martelly said in his last speech to Parliament, before handing the presidential sash to the leader of the National Assembly. “I am leaving office to contribute to constitutional normalcy.”
Continue reading Michel Martelly, Haiti’s President, Departs Without a Successor
Originally posted by The Washington Post
After months of mounting instability and political violence, Haiti now is days away from a full-bore leadership crisis. The way out of the impasse is unclear. What is clear is that the current, failed president, Michel Martelly, must go.
Under Haiti’s constitution, Mr. Martelly, who took office in 2011, must step down when his term ends Sunday. However, a runoff election to choose his successor was canceled amid street protests and political upheaval last month, leaving no alternate date for a vote and no plan for a democratic transition.
Now Mr. Martelly is suggesting that he may remain in office if there is no consensus on replacing him. That should be a non-starter, given his record of thuggish conduct, mismanagement and poor governance, his contempt for democratic processes, and his complicity in leading the country into its current dead end. Should Mr. Martelly be permitted to retain power, there is every reason to fear that Haiti, with its history of political turmoil, would be in danger of bloody upheaval. The international community cannot allow that to happen.
There are a number of conceivable exits from the stalemate. None of them would be easily arranged in the absence of strong institutions and trusted legal bodies in Haiti. Any chance of a peaceful resolution will require timely and assertive diplomacy by the Organization of American States, the United States and other influential international actors.
Continue reading Haiti urgently needs international help overcoming its political crisis
by Reuters via Al Jazeera
A Haitian former coup leader wanted by the United States for smuggling cocaine called on his supporters on Sunday to resist “anarchists” who forced a presidential election to be canceled — a sign of deep polarization that could lead to more unrest.
The former mercenary, Guy Philippe, called for counterprotests and said he would not recognize any transitional government put in place when outgoing President Michel Martelly leaves office on Feb. 7 unless it was representative of the provinces.
“We are ready for war,” Philippe said. “We will divide the country.”
It was not clear how much support he can muster, but he remains popular in his southern stronghold of Grande-Anse, and the tone of his remarks points to the depth of polarization over the political crisis.
Haiti was due to choose Martelly’s replacement on Sunday, but the two-man race was postponed indefinitely after opposition candidate Jude Celestin refused to participate over alleged fraud that sparked anti-government protests and violence.
Some form of interim government is likely to be formed to oversee the election process.
Continue reading Ex–Haiti coup leader decries canceled presidential election
by Jacqueline Charles. Originally posted by The Miami Herald
Amid escalating violent protests and attacks on electoral offices around the country, Haitian elections officials Friday afternoon abruptly canceled Sunday’s planned presidential and partial legislative runoffs.
“Jan. 24 is no longer opportune for having elections considering the threats against the electoral infrastructure and on the population who would have to go vote,” Pierre-Louis Opont, the president of the country’s beleaguered Provisional Electoral Council said in a five-minute 2 p.m. news conference at the council’s headquarters in Petionville.
Minutes earlier, officials had halted the distribution of ballots and other voting materials and began recovery of those that had already gone in day rapidly spiraling out of control as two more elections council member confirmed their pending resignation, and elections offices around the country came under violent attack.
The “violent acts” and the verbal threats against elections officials, left the council known as the CEP, with no choice, Opont said as he listed more than a dozen infrastructure that had either been set on fire, or where attempts were made. Among them, he said, was the communal electoral bureau in the northern city of Limbe. It was torched Friday morning. So was the private residence of the top elections official in the nearby city of Pignon.
Continue reading Haiti cancels presidential election as violence erupts