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Parliament elects interim president
Latinamerica Press
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Second round of elections for a new president was postponed twice.

Calling on political organizations of Haiti to find a solution to the power vacuum existing in the country, Prime Minister Evans Paul temporarily assumed the presidency on Feb. 7 when President Michel Martelly’s term of office ended, as mandated by the Constitution.

“Today is a very special day for the country,” Evans said. “The President [Martelly] left power without a successor; now it is up to us to find a solution.”

The day before Martelly left power, the Executive and the Haitian Parliament reached an agreement establishing the formation of a transition government which will be charged with organizing elections for Apr. 24.

Although the eight principal opposition parties represented in Parliament, known as the Group of 8 (G8), had rejected the agreement on Feb. 8, pointing out that it does not include their demand to form a commission to investigate the alleged irregularities in the first round of elections, on Feb. 14 was elected Jocelerme Privert, senator and President of the Parliament, to lead the country for a maximum of 120 days.

In the first round held on Oct. 25, the candidates who received the most votes were the governing party candidate, Jovenel Moïse, of the Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (Bald Heads Haitian Party), which won 33 percent of the votes, followed by opposition candidate Jude Celestin of the Ligue Alternative pour le Progres et L’Emancipation Haitienne (Alternative League for Haitian Progress and Emancipation), with 25 percent of the votes. Whoever wins the elections will be sworn in on May 14.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the agreement reached by Haitian stakeholders “which provides for immediate arrangements to preserve the institutional continuity of the country as well as a roadmap for the swift conclusion of the ongoing electoral cycle,” and called on all actors concerned “to continue engaging in constructive dialogue to guide their country to a stable and democratic future, which is essential for tackling the challenges facing Haiti.”

Structural crisis
The second round between Moïse and Celestin was scheduled for Dec. 27, but was postponed by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to be held on Jan. 24.  However, two days before, the CEP indefinitely suspended the second round for “questions of security.”

According to Chiara Liguori, Amnesty International researcher on Haiti, “relations between the incumbent President Michel Martelly’s party, Tèt Kale, and the opposition were tense during most of Martelly’s tenure. They reached unprecedented levels after the first round of presidential elections on Oct. 25. As a consequence, the runoff, initially set for Dec. 27, was postponed twice and now there isn’t even a new date on the books.”

The political crisis is taking place amidst the full force of the El Niño phenomenon which has deepened the food insecurity crisis due to the drought in the country. According to the World Food Program (WFP), in 2015 the crops declined up to 70 percent and 3.6 million of the 10.5 million inhabitants suffer from hunger.

“Shocks induced by climate change threaten over 500,000 Haitians every year,” the WFP says. “Although agriculture is an important sector of Haiti’s economy, the country fails to produce enough food, and imports more than 50 percent for its population’s needs. It imports 80 percent of its main staple: rice.”

Liguori thinks that “by choosing to hold a country hostage in this electoral crisis, Haiti’s political class is playing risky games with the lives and human rights of millions of Haitians.” —Latinamerica Press.

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