As an indication that its often-postponed presidential runoffs might soon be relaunched, Haiti’s government Tuesday is expected to release the names of its new electoral commission members.
Interim President Jocelerme Privert made the announcement Monday as he noted that, for the second time in two weeks, he was installing a prime minister. But this time, there was a significant difference.
“We have a prime minister and a government, and later we will have a new [Provisional Electoral Council] that will work so that after a short while, we will have an elected president,” Privert said as he welcomed Prime Minister Enex Jean-Charles and his Cabinet as Haiti’s new caretaker government.
An attorney and longtime palace insider who has worked for several presidents, Jean-Charles was tapped to lead Haiti’s day-to-day affairs and take it to elections after the Lower Chamber of Deputies rejected Privert’s first choice, former central bank governor and economist Fritz Jean. Jean was installed before the vote in parliament, which angered some lawmakers close to former President Michel Martelly. They accused Privert of violating a Feb. 5 agreement that called for a consensus government.
With the U.S. and others in the international community demanding that Haiti quickly put a government in place to renew an electoral process that was interrupted amid allegations of fraud, Privert turned to Jean-Charles, who replaces former Prime Minister Evans Paul.
Telling Jean-Charles that his career is a testimony to his commitment to the state and working as a consensus builder, Privert told the new Cabinet that “we have many urgent problems to be addressed as soon as possible.”
“We are here to honor our national and international commitments,” he said.
Under the accord, Haiti should be preparing to elect a new president and the rest of its parliament on April 24. But political disagreement between the palace and parliament over who should help Privert lead the transitional government has made next month’s deadline almost impossible to meet. The caretaker government, which isn’t supposed to last beyond 120 days, is coming into power just a few days shy of the 60-day mark.
Privert noted the difficulty he has had in meeting the accord’s deadline, telling Haiti’s 10-million-plus citizens during his speech that, “my mission as provisional president has been very complicated.”
Dozens of appointments made in the days before Martelly left office, Privert said, were meant to block the new government. He called on Jean-Charles to review those appointments and take appropriate action.
In addition to the urgency of the elections, the incoming government faces many challenges. There are ongoing issues with mounting insecurity and the worst food-insecurity crisis in 15 years. Meanwhile, millions of dollars are owed to Venezuela’s Petrocaribe oil program, while foreign donors, Privert said, are blocking aid.
Sources familiar with Haiti’s finances say tens of millions of dollars are currently at stake due to budget reforms that were not made during the previous government. A semi-annual review of Haiti’s finances by an International Monetary Fund mission on which the European Union and the Inter-American Development Bank make aid decisions, is also delayed. Concerned about future funding, the bank was supposed to hold a meeting Tuesday with Haiti’s donors in Washington.
Recognizing the challenges facing the new government, Jean-Charles called on the Cabinet to mobilize to help him in the “fight against insecurity, against hunger, against high prices, corruption” and “to provide stability in a country experiencing a political and electoral crisis.”