Haiti appoints council amid push to hold general elections

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FILE – Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry leaves at the end of a ceremony marking the anniversary of the Battle of Vertieres, the last major battle of Haitian independence from France at the National Pantheon Museum, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Nov. 18, 2022. Henry on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 formally appointed a transition council charged with ensuring that general elections are held, which would make them the first elections since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Mo?se. Henry assumed power shortly after Moises’ murder. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Haiti’s prime minister on Monday formally appointed a transition council charged with ensuring that long-awaited general elections are held in a country with no democratically elected institutions.

While many doubt the creation of the council will help the government hold elections this year as envisioned, Prime Minister Ariel Henry said it was a significant step toward that goal.

“It is the beginning of the end of the dysfunction of our democratic institutions,” he said.

Haiti has failed to hold elections since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Mo?se. Henry assumed power shortly after Mo?se’s death, and promised that his administration would do so.

In early January, the terms of the remaining 10 senators expired, leaving no elected officials in place for a country of more than 11 million people.

Henry called on all Haitians to unite and fight for change as the country continues to spiral, with poverty and hunger deepening and violence spiking. The prime minister also thanked the council’s three members for agreeing to join the government in the “noble and thankless task of serving our country in these difficult times.”

The council’s three members are Calixte Fleuridor with Haiti’s Protestant Federation, who will represent civil society; Mirlande Manigat, a law professor and former first lady and presidential candidate who will represent political parties; and Laurent Saint-Cyr, president of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce, who will represent the private sector.

The council also will be responsible for working with government officials to reform Haiti’s constitution, implement economic reforms and reduce violence as gangs continue to grow more powerful since the presidential assassination, leading to a rise in killings, kidnappings and rapes.

The High Transition Council, as it’s known, also will choose the members of a provisional electoral council that needs to be in place before election planning begins.

Henry stressed that elections can’t be held until Haiti becomes safer: “It would not be acceptable for the state to ask politicians to campaign if the state cannot guarantee their security,” he said.

He noted that the new council also supports his call for the deployment of foreign troops to help quell violence in Haiti, a request he made in October that remains unheeded by the U.N. Security Council.

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