Haiti: Martelly pledges to resolve electoral crisis

Haitian president Michel Martelly announced on Nov. 28 that he was setting up an 11-member commission to make recommendations within eight days on how to break a deadlock holding up long-overdue partial legislative elections. Haiti hasn't had any elections since March 2011 runoffs from the 2010 elections. Elections were scheduled in 2012 for 10 of the country's 30 senators but have been postponed for two years because Martelly's government wants changes to Haiti's electoral laws and six opposition parties refuse to accept the amendments. The terms for the 10 senators expire on Jan. 12; in the absence of elections, President Martelly could say the Senate lacked a quorum and could try to rule by decree. This in turn would set off a constitutional crisis, since the current 10 senators announced Nov. 17 that they would refuse to step down in January if no elections were held.

Meanwhile, opposition groups continue to hold militant demonstrations demanding Martelly's resignation. Some 20 Haitian humans rights organizations, including the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), issued a joint call on Nov. 27 for "citizen responsibility" to avoid a worsening crisis; the groups also called on the government not to carry out "political acts," such as arbitrary arrests of opponents, which could hamper the exercise of democratic rights.

"The country is divided," Martelly admitted in his brief Nov. 28 announcement, carried live on radio. "The problems are many. The problems are complicated." Miami Herald correspondent Jacqueline Charles reported that the president's voice "sound[ed] devoid of the fight and energy that have become a hallmark in his ongoing battle with the country's opposition over delayed local and legislative elections and his own fate." The commission he announced is to review the results of consultations that Martelly held with various groups from Sept. 22 to Nov. 24. It will include Gérard Gourgue, an 89-year-old jurist who was justice minister in two provisional civilian-military governments after the overthrow of the Duvalier family dictatorship in February 1986; three religious leaders; three former elected officials; business owner Réginald Boulos; a peasant leader, Charles Suffrard, once close to former president René Préval (1996-2001, 2006-2011); and Paul Loulou Chéry, who heads the Confederation of Haitian Workers (CTH). The only woman in the commission is educator Odette Roy Fombrun. (AlterPresse, Nov. 28, Nov. 28; MH, Nov. 28)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, November 30.