Haitian president leaves office without elected successor

After political crisis turned violent, Haitian President Martelly leaves office without elected successor, Prime Minister Paul calls for dialogue

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Haiti's outgoing President Michel Martelly speaks at a ceremony marking the end of his presidential term, in the Haitian Parliament in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 7, 2016

President of Haiti Michel Martelly left office with a ceremony at the national assembly on Sunday, guarded outside by UN troops and riot police, as the small Caribbean country is embroiled in a political crisis.

Michel Martelly ended his presidential term without handing power to a successor, in an electoral crisis highlighting Haiti's long struggle to keep democracy on track in the 30 years since the Duvalier dictatorship ended.

Martelly was able to leave office thanks to a last-minute agreement hours before to install a transitional government after prolonged protests that sometimes turned violent.

"History will remember my failure, that I, and I alone, am responsible for these delayed elections," Haitian President, Michel Martelly, said.

The electoral process was stopped after challenges from the opposition, which condemned an "electoral coup d'etat" masterminded by the executive power.

In the first round of presidential voting in October, Moise officially won 32.76 percent of the vote, to 25.29 percent for Celestin, who denounced those results as a "ridiculous farce."

A second round of presidential and partial legislative elections, initially set for December 27, was postponed, preventing Martelly from handing power to an elected successor on February 7 as required under the constitution.

Haiti's President Michel Martelly (C), Senate President Jocelerme Privert (L) and Representatives Chamber President Cholcer Chanzy exchange a folder during an agreement signing in the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 6, 2016

The vote, a runoff between Martelly's favoured candidate Jovenel Moise and opposition flag-bearer Jude Celestin, was called off following violence and opposition protests by demonstrators alleging that foul play had helped the government candidate take the first round.

Assembly President Jocelerme Privert called for a "truce" to allow enough stability to organise the elections, already postponed three times, most recently in January.

The current head of a disputed interim government, Prime Minister Evans Paul, held a news conference in Port-au-Prince and promoted "dialogue" in the hope of launching the "Haitian political miracle."

Paul came forward in a news conference to say the country does not need to fall into chaos.

"The weapons of mobilisation aren't necessary today because dialogue takes priority, the dialogue that gave forth this agreement. A larger dialogue with all the sector, with those in power, those of the opposition, those of the streets, civil society so we can bring about the Haitian political miracle," he said.

Elections are set for April 24 and the winner would take office in May.

But there is a major catch. A group of eight losing candidates from the first round rejected the notion of parliament choosing the interim president, and called instead for a Supreme Court judge to lead the process.

The group, which includes the opposition candidate for the runoff, Jude Celestin, believes the parliamentarians, who were elected in the same  first round in October, do not have the legitimacy to oversee the interim government or a new vote. 

Supporters of presidential candidate Jovenel Moise greet unidentified men in military style clothes during a march in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 5, 2016.

The dispute has sparked street clashes involving paramilitaries and citizens.

"The provocative acts of people in military uniforms and with weapons in the streets without authorisation that is not good for the morale of society, it's not good for the image of the country, this battle without any limits for power, is not good," Paul said.

"Those in power, and those in the opposition, ought to join their hands together so the country can get out of being stuck in the mud of being undeveloped,” he added.


TRTWorld and agencies