Presidential Commission Recommends Removing Prime Minister as Pressure Mounts to Resolve Electoral Crisis

December 10, 2014

At a ceremony yesterday afternoon, an advisory committee handed their report over to Haitian President Michel Martelly, requesting the removal of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe among other actions aimed at resolving Haiti’s electoral crisis. Jacqueline Charles reports for the Miami Herald:

The 10-page report, penned by an 11-member presidential commission, sets a timetable for Lamothe’s resignation. It also recommends replacing the head of the country’s Supreme Court and members of the body charged with organizing long-delayed elections. Dozens who have been arbitrarily arrested and deemed by human rights groups to be political prisoners should be released, the report said.

The Herald released a copy of the report they had received, which is available here (PDF). The Haitian government and international community, mainly the United States and United Nations, have long blamed the electoral delay on opposition from the so-called “Group of Six” senators. With parliamentary terms set to expire January 12 and no solution to the electoral crisis, it appears as though the positions of both the government and international community are softening; however it might not be enough.

The advisory commission was created by President Martelly following a week of increasingly large demonstrations throughout Haiti, calling on the president and prime minister to resign and for the holding of elections. Martelly is expected to make a decision on the recommendations by the end of the week. The moves come as the U.S. has taken on an even more visible role in trying to break the electoral impasse.  

Just months after the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, had laid the blame squarely on Haiti’s opposition for the delays, current U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White met with some opposition political parties on December 2 (although reportedly not Famni Lavalas, a party that has consistently won all of the elections that it’s been allowed to participate in).  In a statement after the meeting, the U.S. embassy said that White was “extremely impressed with their analysis of the current political situation, dedication to Haiti’s future and willingness to truly negotiate for the betterment of their country.” An opposition leader, Jean André Victor, told the press after the meeting with White: “We told Mrs White in no uncertain terms that the current crisis is one of Haiti’s making, and it is up to Haiti to find a solution.”

But U.S. diplomatic efforts continue. Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported last night that Thomas Shannon, an advisor to Secretary of State John Kerry, arrived in Haiti yesterday and will be holding meetings with various political players in the country. A visit from Kerry himself has yet to be confirmed but has been widely expected in the coming days.

“They coddled Martelly far too long …though that finally seems to be changing,” Robert Maguire, a Haiti specialist at George Washington University, told Reuters. Yet U.S. Ambassador White has also voiced support for Martelly, telling Le Nouvelliste in an interview earlier this week that, “We believe he was elected for a certain period of time. He has to stay until his term ends.” Responding to questions regarding whether the U.S. had played a roll in trying to remove Lamothe as Prime Minister, White responded that, “it is not at all the United States’ decision if the Prime Minister stays or goes.”

While the commission’s recommendations address a number of opposition concerns, some key issues remain unaddressed. The report does not suggest extending the mandates of members of parliament, which would leave Martelly able to rule by decree come January 12, though the report does say Martelly should limit his decree powers only to laws surrounding the holding of elections. Further, the question of how both parliamentary and presidential elections will be held next year, either in two installments or as part of one large election, as the U.S. and U.N. prefer, remains unaddressed.

“The resolution of the crisis inevitably requires the forced or voluntary resignation of Martelly, the creation of a credible CEP, the release of political prisoners, the establishment of a provisional government and the holding of general elections in 2015. That’s it,” Andre Michel, a Haitian lawyer and opposition figure, told Jacqueline Charles of the Herald.

Though some political parties, including FUSION, the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL) and INITE have welcomed the advisory commission’s report, other parties have vowed to continue with planned street protests beginning this weekend.  The report’s recommendations included calling off planned protests to allow for dialogue.

“This is a rescue operation by the international community aimed at saving the mandate of President Martelly while Martelly is primarily responsible for the crisis,” Michel told the Herald. Nevertheless, the United States, at least publicly, remained optimistic on the prospects for a deal. “We believe Martelly is committed to making a deal, and we think they can make an agreement in time,” an anonymous State Department official told Reuters.

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