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Haiti's Parliament Just Elected a President in an Effort to Stem Violence, Organize Elections

Lawmakers in Haiti have selected Jocelerme Privert as the country’s interim president just a week after the departure of Michel Martelly, in a move aimed at filling a power vacuum threatening stability in the Caribbean nation.

by VICE News
Feb 14 2016, 5:45pm

Jocelerme Privet prête serment ce Dimanche. (Image par Nilo Tabrizy/ VICE News)

Lawmakers in Haiti have selected Jocelerme Privert as the country's interim president just a week after the departure of Michel Martelly, in a move aimed at filling a power vacuum threatening stability in the Caribbean nation.

Privert, a senator and the current president of the National Assembly, is due to be sworn in later on Sunday as the provisional president. His main task will be to quickly organize fresh elections after Haiti cancelled a runoff presidential election in January, amid often violent protests over alleged fraud in the first round and after the opposition candidate boycotted the vote.

Martelly ended his five-year-term on February 7 with no successor waiting to take his place. The situation created a power vacuum and triggered a wave of bloody clashes in the capital Port-au-Prince between angry protesters and police. VICE News saw one protest in which hundreds of anti-Martelly demonstrators threw rocks and chunks of concrete at police, as police fired back with tear gas and made several arrests.

Related: Watch VICE News Dispatch from Haiti: Protesters and Police in Bloody Clashes: Haiti's Power Struggle

Lawmakers congratulating one another after the vote for president. (Nilo Tabrizy/VICE News)

"Martelly will pass, but Haiti will remain," Martelly said in the third person as he delivered his resignation address. "When you thought you were messing with Martelly, you were doing it to the country."

Assembly members cast their 2nd and final ballots. (Nilo Tabrizy/VICE News)

Under an agreement struck before Martelly left office, the interim government will have a 120 day term but should organize elections by April 24, and hand power over to the winner in May. Privert's selection could help calm the protests, which have been led by factions of Aristide's Lavalas movement.

A Haitian citizen taking manual tallies of votes. (Nilo Tabrizy/VICE News)

Haiti has not been able to establish a stable democracy after the fall of the Duvalier regime, and its political system has been marred by coups and rampant electoral fraud. Martelly has essentially ruled by decree since January 2015, and the country has failed to hold local or parliamentary elections. The last time there was an interim government in Haiti was after Aristide's ouster and it took two years to hold elections.

Related: Watch VICE News documentary Who's in Charge? - Haiti's Power Struggle