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HAITI
Parliament is dissolved and President governs by decree
Latinamerica Press
1/16/2015
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Five years after the earthquake that devastated the country, weak public institutions persist and thousands of people remain in refugee camps.

President Michel Martelly failed to resolve the political crisis looming over his government as an agreement with the deputies and senators to extend the mandate for Parliament to remain in session after the January 12 deadline collapsed, exactly five years to the day that an earthquake devastated this Caribbean nation considered to be the poorest in the region.

The leader had announced the previous day that a compromise had been reached.  However, opposition legislators did not support the agreement signed with the government at the end of December that would have avoided the automatic dissolution of  Parliament mandated by the Constitution. The agreement also would have changed the electoral legislation and confirm the designated Prime Minister, Evans Paul.

Paul, former mayor of Port-au-Prince, the capital city, and ex-presidential candidate, assumed his duties on January 15 without the ratification of Parliament.  He was named Prime Minister at the end of December by Martelly, replacing Laurent Lamothe, who resigned on December 14 in an attempt to avert the crisis.

“I leave my position as prime minister feeling that I have done my duty,” said Lamothe in a televised message.  "If my departure can clear the path to resolve the political crisis, I have decided to present President Martelly with my resignation as head of the government, as well as the resignation of all the ministers.”

With the legislative branch dissolved, Martelly is constitutionally empowered to govern by decree, although the President has given assurances that this is not his intentions and that the only decree he will issue is the immediate convoking of municipal and legislative elections.

The opposition, which has promoted massive street protests, is calling for the resignation of Martelly, accusing him of wanting to cling to power and postpone indefinitely the parliamentary elections scheduled for this past October and that have been continually put off since 2010.

Martelly assumed the presidency in May 2011 for a five years term. From the first day he encountered strong opposition in the Parliament, controlled by the opposition Unity Party of former President René Préval (2006-2011), which has 65 out of 99 deputies and 17 out of 30 senators. The governing party, Peasant Response, only has three deputies and no senators.

The Organization of American States (OAS) expressed its support “for the constitutional Haitian authorities and all stakeholders in their commitment to hold free, fair, and inclusive elections as soon as possible in accordance with the constitutional provisions for the renewal of the democratic institutions.”
The representative of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Sandra Honoré, declared in a statement that “under these exceptional circumstances, we hope that the Executive and all political parties act with responsibility and moderation.”

Little progress
Five years after the earthquake left more than 300,000 dead, 350,000 wounded and 1.5 million without homes, the country remains in ruins.  85,000 people still live in 123 refugee camps “with levels of malnutrition over the limit that is considered an emergency,” according to the Office of Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) of the European Union. In addition to this is the alarming condition of sanitation.  There is only one latrine for each 82 persons, stated ECHO.

The representative of the World Food Program (WFP) in Haiti, Wendy Bingham, pointed out that “poverty, inequality, degradation of the environment and political uncertainty threaten the advances that the Haitians have made in the last five years.”

Bingham added that actually a third of the 10 million inhabitants of the country live without knowing how they will find their next meal.

Martelly decreed January 12 as a “Day of Reflection and Commemoration” and ordered flags to be flown at half-mast as a sign of mourning for the victims.  The material losses are calculated to be approximately US$8 billion.
The President denounced the fact that his country has only received $4 billion of the $12 billion committed by the international community for reconstruction.

In a message to commemorate the tragedy, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, invoked the world community to continue aiding Haiti.

“The recovery of Haiti has not been easy,” he said.  “There has been and continues to be reversals in the path and there is still much work to do to guarantee political and institutional stability, democratic governance and sustainable development.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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