One week before a new president was supposed to take office, Haiti lies in a state of suspended animation. The presidential runoff election has been postponed. The way forward is uncertain. But one thing is clear: President Michel Martelly must step down when his term expires on Feb. 7.
Despite an unrelieved record of failure, Mr. Martelly suggested last week that he could prolong his tenure if no consensus for moving forward emerges.
Are you kidding?
Haiti’s people have already paid too dearly for Mr. Martelly’s disrespect for constitutional order and inept management. His suggestion adds another element of urgency to the imperative of finding someone this week to lead a provisional administration leading up to new elections.
It can’t be the autocratic Mr. Martelly. For the last year he ruled by decree because he never held one election in four years. Cronyism, a chronic problem in post-Duvalier Haiti, reached new heights under Mr. Martelly. He never understood the notion of compromise, nor did he ever try to forge a national political consensus to make the most of the aid provided by the international community to recover from a 2010 earthquake. Whatever was good for “Sweet Micky” — his stage name as a musician — was good for Haiti, or so he seemed to believe.
The job proved too big for him.
Now it’s time to step down and make room for a caretaker government. It should be led by someone who can command respect from all sectors of the country and whose only objective is to lay the groundwork for honest, transparent, democratic elections as soon as possible. That is most definitely not Mr. Martelly, nor anyone linked to him or his administration.
Who that person might be is for Haitians to decide. Much is riding on the selection and on the decisions that must be made right away. A lot of energy has been expended on declarations that the international community should stop meddling in Haiti’s internal affairs.
Much of that stems from justified resentment over pressure exerted by the United States, among others, to make Haiti proceed with elections earlier this month even though preliminary rounds leading up to the runoffs were widely considered fraudulent.
Wisely, those elections were postponed. But Haiti needs international aid and cooperation in order to avoid a total collapse. It cannot, with one hand, take the aid, and, with the other, push the international community away. Other countries stand ready to help Haiti out of this crisis, but the nation’s collective leadership — members of the Senate and other legislators, business leaders and religious institutions — must show that they are capable of working together for the common good.
They must find a consensus leader for a brief transition government and decide on a reasonable electoral calendar — and do so quickly, before a prolonged vacuum of power allows political opportunists to incite violence.
It is essential to follow through on the recommendations of an electoral verification commission that sought clarity about the earlier rounds of voting. How much was fraud and how much was honest? Six of the nine members of the panel that ran the elections have resigned. The rest should also be replaced.
Haitians can believe in democracy only if it delivers effective, constructive government led by a serious president with a popular mandate. The last thing Haiti needs is another “Sweet Micky.”