One-Third of Haiti's Senate Leaves Office as Country Scrambles to Show World it Can Operate Legitimately

Port-au-Prince-harbor-in-Haiti.jpgIt's like old political times in Port-au-Prince these days - bizarre.

Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, may face a new problem shortly besides its perennial crises with riots, coups, hunger and crime. The new problem is vacant seats in its Parliament.  Elections are in mid-May.

At that time, the terms of 10 Senators, one third of the Senate, expire. They have to leave their posts.  If their seats aren't filled, the government will be disrupted, as it has many times over since Christopher Columbus first set foot on this Caribbean republic in December 1492.

Observers note that after having promised in December 2011, to start discussions with political parties for the establishment of an Electoral Council, the Executive seems to have finally decided to consider the organization of the senatorial elections, municipal and of local governments.

Prime Minister Garry Conille has met with leaders of five political parties to form a new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP).  The parties include Rally of Progressive National Democrats (RDNP), the Christian Movement for a New Haiti (Mochrena), the Fusion of Social Democrats, the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL) and the Konvention Inité Demokratik (KID). 

Conille says he wants to achieve the best elections in Haiti's history. Don't bet on it happening.

In April 2011, then-president-elect Michel Martelly called for the voice of the people to be heard by the power of their votes. Even as he spoke, the world watched as still another presidential and legislative election season surfaced with fraud and controversy -- including an arrest warrant against the President of the Provisional Electoral Council, Gaillot Dorsinvil.

Since then, observers say the Martelly-Conille government has not taken any steps conducive to holding fair and credible elections.

The "Provisional" Electoral Council is an unconstitutional body, observers maintain. It was set-up by the former President Rene Preval under "emergency" circumstances which allowed him to choose all nine members of the council. That council has nearly an irrevocable power over elections in Haiti.

Sen. Kely C. Bastien (Nord/Inite), former President of the National Assembly, has sharply criticized the Martelly-Conille government for not publishing the constitutional amendments accepted by parliamentarians eight months ago.

"The publication of this text would have facilitated the establishment of the Permanent Electoral Council through the submission of three members from each branch of government," Bastien has stated.

For Bastien, the Martelly-Conille government is incapable of managing the priorities of the nation simultaneously.

"Since its installation, the government tends to address issues on a case by case basis," Bastien has stated.

The Executive Secretary of the Civil Society Initiative (CSI), Rosny Desroches, agrees.

"I do not see what prevents the publication of the amended text of the Constitution which would have facilitated the creation of the Permanent Electoral Council to organize elections for the third renewal of the Senate," Desroches says.

To Desroches, the administrations actions are reminiscent of 1997, when then-President Rene Preval did not hold elections on time and allowed the mandates of some senators to end.  Without holding elections and declaring the parliament dysfunctional, the Haitian state took a step back. The government was ineffective.

Defend Haiti has been keeping count. It has been over 200 days that Haiti has operated under a Constitution that is no longer legitimate, the activist group states.

Some in Port-au-Prince argue the entire Martelly-Conille government is illegitimate since the process for installing a prime minister and council of ministers did not go according to the amended version of the Constitution, accepted on May 13, 2011.  


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