The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse took place in “a political context marked by anarchy and a society in chaos”, as defined by Haitian political scientist Joseph Harold Pierre. A country where criminal gangs have more power than the police and where the power vacuum, with the death of the president, ends up taking over what little remained of the oldest state in Latin America.
The president was shot dead in the early hours of Wednesday (7) at his home in Port-au-Prince by a group of foreign mercenaries. What is known is that the president had a long list of enemies, in politics and outside, due to his confrontational behavior. Added to this is the fact that Haitian politics is governed by corrupt and criminal codes and that it is the only market that currently functions, so the interests behind the political system are often greater than in other countries of the region.
What is the political situation in Haiti?
For now, “Haiti is experiencing an apparent calm. The company is in shock, ”explains Harold Pierre. People are avoiding leaving their homes and the Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, who is not on paper, has declared a state of siege.
From a political point of view, according to the Haitian constitution, when a vacuum of this type occurs due to the death or incapacity of the president, it is the Prime Minister who must assume the post. However, for this, the prime minister would have to be ratified by parliament, but the country does not have one. Indeed, in January of last year, the legislature ended without elections to renew the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, due to the generalized crisis.
Moreover, the Prime Minister, never having been ratified by a parliament, is in fact Prime Minister. And to finish complicating the situation, “the de facto Prime Minister, who under normal conditions should assume the presidency, was dismissed by the president himself last Monday” and the newly appointed Prime Minister forms his government and not He has took office. Thus, for the Haitian political scientist, the country is faced with the particular situation of having two prime ministers, one leaving and the other entering, and neither of them has the legal conditions to assume the presidency.
How did you get there
The origin of the current political chaos began with the elections of October 25, 2015. After a first round in which no candidate obtained an absolute majority, a second round was called for December 27, 2015. This has however was postponed for the first. to January 24, 2016 and, due to unrest and clashes, it was again postponed to April 24. After a third annulment, the election took place in November 2016, with the victory of Moise.
According to the Haitian constitution, explains Harold Pierre, the mandate of the president is five years. But the successive cancellations and delays in the presidential inauguration have led to a debate on the extension of his term. Although elections were held in 2015 and 2016, the debate developed around a single election or two different elections, which would clearly establish the term of office. However, the bodies that would have the power to resolve the issue – the Constitutional Court and the Permanent Electoral Council – also did not exist in the country, which led to a situation in which it was not known whether the mandate de Moise was finished or not.
Simultaneously with the deepening of political chaos, “a rapid decomposition of the police institution has occurred in recent years due to express political will”, according to the analyst, with the aim of operating freely and with complete confidence. impunity. The vacuum left by a decaying political system and a weakened police force began to be occupied by criminal gangs, leading to an accelerated increase in crime and violence. It is in the midst of a deep economic and health crisis that has hit a society that has already been severely punished even harder.
Faced with such a panorama, two scenarios are presented. The first would be a wave of violence where criminal gangs, taking advantage of the conflict between incoming and outgoing prime ministers, increase their power and eventually take over the country. The second scenario would be the intervention of the international community to participate in the resolution of the conflict, with the United States playing a leading role. However, it is likely that the international community, “which does not understand the Haitian problem well”, according to Harold Pierre, considers that the country does not have the necessary conditions or the right actors to get out of this situation.
How to get out of this situation ?
In a normal situation, presidential elections should be called for this year. However, the absence of a minimum political consensus, serious insecurity, mistrust of the government and the fact that the electorate lacks legal or logistical capacity make it impossible to call elections. And if it were organized soon, it would likely exacerbate chaos and lawlessness.
The country needs a socio-political solution, says the analyst, a consensus of key actors, including political parties, the private sector, universities and religious authorities, to agree to select – and not to select. ‘elect – morally competent persons to form a transitional government until elections can be held. organized under acceptable conditions. And to ensure this process, the presence and support of the international community would be essential.
The dramatic situation in which Haiti finds itself is due to the sum of a myriad of factors which have prevented the consolidation of a decent democracy. And in this context, according to Harold Pierre, “the fundamental problem of the country has been the rejection of any institutional culture” which would allow it to build its own foundations.
* This text is based on an interview with Joseph Harold Pierre: Haitian economist, political scientist and international consultant, specialist in Latin America and the Caribbean and doctoral student in political science at the University of Nottingham Trent in England.
* Translation from Spanish by Maria Isabel Santos Lima
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