Members of a group of six Haitian senators who have been blocking passage of an electoral law necessary to hold long-overdue municipal and legislative elections say they’re ready to support the bill if President Michel Martelly first appoints a new electoral council to safeguard the balloting.
“We can vote the law in one day,” opposition Sen. Francky Exius told the Miami Herald, signaling a shift in the group’s position
Exius and fellow opposition senator Jean-Baptiste Bien-Aime said Martelly needs to name a temporary provisional electoral council (CEP) based on the spirit of the formula outlined in the constitution, and that new CEP — not the presidential palace — should send the bill to the Senate for approval.
Haiti’s opposition and Martelly have been at loggerheads over the balloting, which should have taken place three years ago. Both sides accuse the other of not wanting elections, and in recent months the impasse has fanned growing nationwide protests with some hardliners calling for Martelly to resign.
On Monday, Martelly signed a tentative political agreement with the president of the Supreme Court and both chambers of parliament hoping to avert a worsening crisis. The agreement extends the terms of all members of the Chamber of Deputies and a second-tier of the Senate on condition that the electoral law is voted before Jan. 12, the day their terms expire. It also calls for elections to be held in 120 days.
Opposition senators blasted the accord Tuesday even while admitting they worked on some of its provisions. At issue is the controversial head of the court, Anel Alexis Joseph.
“We don’t recognize him, so how can [Senate President Simon] Desras sign the accord with him?” Bien-Aime said.
After Martelly’s appointment of then 72-year-old Joseph, the Senate passed a resolution saying that he wasn’t qualified to head the court because he was over the legal age limit of 65. Earlier this month, a presidential commission seeking to break the political impasse echoed senators’ calls for Alexis to resign. The commission’s report also recommended the resignation of the entire CEP and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.
Martelly accepted the recommendations and soon entered into negotiations with opposition political parties. But after the National Palace announced on Christmas Day that Martelly had tapped former Port-au-Prince Mayor Evans Paul to replace Lamothe, the opposition blasted the choice saying they had not been consulted.
“Delivering a PM without negotiation,” opposition party INITE said. “President Martelly took the responsibility to torpedo a process that could have led to a negotiated solution to the crisis, safeguarding the democratic future of the country. Once again, he showed that he did not meet his commitments.”
Bien-Aime and Exius both say that Paul will not receive the endorsement of the group of six.
“When you are in a crisis, you have to find a consensus,” said Exius, adding that in a year where Haiti will be holding presidential elections, the head of the government cannot be the former leader of a political party. “You have to have someone who can give you confidence. He cannot guarantee anything to anyone.”
Desras, who had also publicly criticized Martelly for the manner in which he chose Paul, said every “opposition senator has a prime minister in their pocket.”
“Why didn’t they come forward with a name?” he said.
Desras defended his signing the accord with Joseph, saying Martelly “has promised that Joseph will resign and a new CEP will be installed.”
The president, he said, already gave up his prime minister and the CEP. It is time, he said, for senators to assume their responsibility.
“I did what I had to do,” he said. “I took a decision to save the institution.”