Haiti

After parliament’s rejection, Haiti names a new prime minister

Haiti's interim President Jocelerme Privert, center, arriving with new interim Prime Minister Fritz Jean, behind right, on Feb. 26 for Jean’s induction ceremony at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Jean, an economist and former governor of Haiti's central bank, was rejected by the Lower Chamber of Deputies on March 20.
Haiti's interim President Jocelerme Privert, center, arriving with new interim Prime Minister Fritz Jean, behind right, on Feb. 26 for Jean’s induction ceremony at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Jean, an economist and former governor of Haiti's central bank, was rejected by the Lower Chamber of Deputies on March 20. AP

Days after Haitian lawmakers rejected a notable economist to help lead a caretaker government, interim President Jocelerme Privert is now placing his bets on a seasoned lawyer and presidential adviser to take the country to elections.

Enex Jean-Charles was tapped to be the next prime minister after meetings between Privert and parliamentarians Tuesday to find a consensus over his nomination. A university professor who has been behind the scenes in the National Palace for years, Jean-Charles is considered to be a well-read and experienced lawyer.

He has served as a presidential adviser to former presidents Boniface Alexandre, who headed the U.S.-backed transitional government from 2004-06, and most recently René Préval and Michel Martelly. He was in Préval’s private cabinet and served as executive director of the council of ministers under Martelly.

Jean-Charles is scheduled to go before parliament Thursday when he could face tough questioning about his role in the proposed amendment of the 1987 Constitution, which has been a source of controversy. He was Preval’s judicial counsel and has never said anything publicly about the accusations surrounding the illegal introduction of items that were not part of the proposed amendments during the controversial process.

“He has a huge capacity to work,” said presidential candidate and former senator Moise Jean-Charles, who is no relation but worked with him during Préval’s 2006-11 administration. “He talks to everyone in the country.”

The former senator, who led street protests over his third-place finish in the Oct. 25 first round presidential vote and is demanding a verification of the vote, said he will reserve judgment on the new prime minister nominee’s politics.

“We will not say whether we are for or against his nomination,” Moise Jean-Charles said. “The next government has a mission to create a verification commission and to organize elections in the country in a very short time.”

In addition to a verification of the elections that pit Martelly’s presidential pick, Jovenel Moïse, against opposition candidate Jude Célestin, the opposition is demanding an audit of public finances under Martelly as Haiti finds itself in dire financial straits as a humanitarian crisis looms. The domestic currency is depreciating, the government is months behind in payments to Venezuela’s Petrocaribe discounted-oil loan program, and this week the Port-au-Prince mayor’s office said corpses can’t be picked up off the streets of the capital because the company responsible for taking them to the morgue had not been paid. Haiti also is facing the worst food security crisis in 15 years because of an ongoing drought.

Enex Jean-Charles was proposed by lawmakers in the 119-members Lower Chamber of Deputies, who on Sunday failed to ratify Prime Minister Fritz Jean’s general policy statement on his priorities for running the government.

Jean, who once headed Haiti’s central bank and studied in New York, needed 60 votes, an absolute majority, to pass. Only 38 deputies, however, voted in favor of him. The rejection not only left Haiti without a working government more than a month after Martelly left office on Feb. 7 without an elected successor because of disputed elections, but it further delayed the transfer of power to an elected president.

Under a Feb. 5 political accord, a presidential runoff election is supposed to take place on April 24 and the new president is supposed to be sworn in on May 14. In order to stage the elections, which have twice been postponed, there first needs to be a functioning government in place.

Only after a new government is approved by both chambers of parliament can the names of a new Provisional Electoral Council be published. It is the council that ultimately stages the vote.

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