Haiti’s First Lady Sophia Martelly filed Thursday to run for a Senate seat representing the West department, which encompasses the capital of Port-au-Prince.
“What you suspected, it is so,” Martelly tweeted with a photo of her holding up her registration document.
Whether Martelly would seek a Senate seat in the Aug. 9 legislative elections or attempt to replace her husband, Michel Martelly, in the Oct. 25 presidential balloting has been a subject of much speculation among Haiti watchers.
President Martelly begins the final year of his five-year presidential term in May. If no one wins the first round of presidential elections on Oct. 25 out right, runoffs will take place Dec. 27.
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The last day for candidates to register for parliamentary elections was Thursday after the Provisional Electoral Council extended the deadline a few days to give candidates living outside the capital and other major cities time to file.
As of Wednesday 2,313 Haitians had registered. There were 301 candidates for the 20 vacant seats in the Senate and 2,012 for the 119-member chamber of deputies, according to Haiti’s Le Nouvelliste newspaper.
The last-minute rush also saw several members of the private sector, including hotel developer Jerry Tardieu and Didier Fils-Aimé, the current head of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce, registering for the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, respectively. They were joined by singer Don Kato whose group Brother’s Posse had been banned by President Martelly in past carnivals. All registered under Verite, the new political platform created by former President René Préval.
Former Social Affairs Minister Gerald Germain also registered as did National Palace Spokesman Lucien Jura. Guy Phillipe, a former police chief who is wanted under a sealed drug trafficking indictment in the United States, also registered to run for the Senate. This will be Phillipe’s third try at elected office in Haiti since the time he led a rebel force against then-President Jean Bertrand Aristide that eventually forced him into exile.
It will be up to the nine-member electoral council to determine who is qualified to run. Among the criteria will be whether former government officials like Germain have the required certification — décharge — needed to show that they have not misused government funds.
Phillipe will have to show a good conduct certificate from the Haitian National Police.
And while Sophia Martelly has never held elected office before, she may find herself the subject of a legal challenge since she was born in New York. Under Haiti’s amended Constitution, double nationality is accepted as long as candidates have renounced their foreign citizenship. However, legal opinions differ about the process.