HAITI: A bitter baptism for “Sweet Micky.” Political deadlock may trigger unrest on the streets and fatigue among donors, hindering the slow recovery from last year’s earthquake
ALMOST three months after Michel Martelly took office as president, Haiti’s political affairs are still in limbo. The country’s parliament this week again refused to accept his nominee for prime minister, a prerequisite for a new government to be sworn in. Acting ministers, held over from the previous government, have not been to a cabinet meeting in three months, and are able to handle only day-to-day payments.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, can ill afford this gridlock: decisions are needed to speed recovery from the devastating earthquake of January 2010, the hurricane season is entering its peak and children are due to go back to school next month. International officials responsible for the $10.2 billion in aid pledged after the earthquake are wringing their hands.
Haiti has been down this road before, with disastrous results. It went without a prime minister from June 1997 to March 1999. René Préval, the president then (and again from 2006 until this year) dissolved parliament in January 1999 and ruled by decree until elections the next year. Donors froze aid.
This time the root of the deadlock lies in part in the flawed general election of last November, which featured chaos and widespread claims of fraud; only 1.1m of a potential electorate of 4.7m managed to cast their votes. Mr Martelly only got on to the ballot for a presidential run-off, held in March, after the Organisation of American States and other outsiders stepped in and forced a recount in which he was found to have more votes than Mr Préval’s candidate. He won 68% in the run-off (but only 23% of the electorate voted).
Mr Martelly is a political novice. He was once known to Haitians merely as “Sweet Micky”, a popular singer with a reputation for bawdy stage antics. His foes point to his past ties to some unsavoury figures such as Michel François, a much-feared police chief accused of drug trafficking who was a key figure in a military coup in 1991 that overthrew Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a left-wing president. Mr Martelly’s supporters say that in those days such links were the price for being allowed to perform.
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