AP interview: Haitian PM plans to hold elections next year
Grappling with political turmoil and the aftermath of an earthquake, the Haitian prime minister said on Tuesday he plans to hold a referendum to change the country’s constitution by February, and he hopes to hold presidential elections. and legislative at the beginning of next year.
In an interview with The Associated Press at his official residence, Ariel Henry dismissed opponents who accuse him of wanting to stay in power and said mistrust is one of the biggest challenges he faces.
The referendum is a priority, said Henry, as the current constitution is rejected by a majority of political figures and civil society leaders. He said an electoral council that will be responsible for setting the dates has yet to be appointed after he recently dissolved the previous provisional council.
“The elections must take place as soon as possible,” he said, deploring the lack of confidence among Haitians. âPeople don’t believe what is being said. “
Just hours after his intervention, members of the provisional council disbanded by Henry released a statement saying they planned to challenge the prime minister’s actions and accused him of violating Haitian law because only a president has power. to revoke them. The council added that it will continue to work on the organization of the next elections.
After having been postponed several times this year, the presidential and legislative elections were to be held on November 7, at the same time as the constitutional referendum. But the assassination of President Jovenel MoÃ¯se at his private home on July 7 threw these plans upside down.
A proposed constitutional change would prohibit a president from serving more than two terms, although it does not specify whether these would be consecutive, as stated in the current constitution. Other changes include compulsory military service for 18-year-olds, the creation of a vice-president post to replace that of prime minister, and the establishment of a unicameral legislature to replace the current Senate and Chamber of Deputies. .
Thousands of people marched in the streets when the referendum was first proposed, with many accusing Moses of having taken power.
Henry still faces opposition to the referendum, as well as criticism from those who do not see him as a legitimate leader.
As part of a political deal with opponents, MoÃ¯se chose Henry, a qualified neurosurgeon, to become Haiti’s next prime minister shortly before his assassination. But the president was killed before Henry could take the oath. The 71-year-old finally took power over incumbent Prime Minister Claude Joseph after foreign diplomats from the so-called Core Group endorsed his rule, giving rise to criticism that he was a pawn of the US government with a long history of interference in the affairs of Haiti.
“It’s a puppet,” said Monique Clesca, writer, activist and former Haitian UN official. “Ultimately, he has no legitimacy or credibility.”
Clesca and several Haitian civil society leaders are calling for a two-year transitional government with a president and prime minister chosen by political parties and civil society to stabilize the country before elections are held.
âWe wanted a Haitian solution,â she said. âIt is time for the international community to tell us, ‘We are listening’, rather than shove someone they put there down our throats.
Henry said he had always been a legitimate prime minister even though he had not been elected. He sees his position as a mission to oversee a renaissance of Haitian society.
This is not the first time that Henry has taken on a guardian role. In 2004, he was part of the so-called Conseil des Sages which, with the support of the United States, attempted to stabilize Haiti following the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in a coup. He was previously Minister of Health and briefly Minister of the Interior under former President Michel Martelly.
In other comments, Henry criticized the way the US government recently treated Haitian migrants along the US-Mexico border, where it deported more than 2,300. He said the action was not “appropriate”.
âWe don’t understand the way our compatriots were treated,â he said.
Henry’s remarks came just hours before Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols, America’s top diplomat in Latin America, arrived in Port-au-Prince, who is seeking to contain the fallout from the brutal resignation the week. last of the US special envoy to Haiti. .
Daniel Foote, a career diplomat, left the high-level post on border deportations, saying it was inhumane to return migrants, many of whom fled the island after the devastating 2010 earthquake, in a country rocked by gang violence, a collapsed economy and political turmoil.
Foote, in his resignation letter, also criticized the United States for supporting what he sees as a “corrupt government with gang alliances” instead of embracing a broad coalition of civil society groups who have developed their own plan to stabilize the country.
Henry declined to comment on Foote’s resignation, saying it was a foreign affair, but said he did not believe the situation would affect relations between the United States and Haiti, which, according to him, would continue and deepen.
Henry added that the government was working on a potential program project to help the thousands of migrants who have been deported. He said one proposal is to give migrants access to credit so that they can start their own small businesses.
âWe are trying to do it immediately,â he said.
He acknowledged that Haiti is plunged into a deep economic crisis and faces many other challenges, including an increase in gang-related violence and kidnappings and a housing crisis following a magnitude earthquake. 7.2. The August 14 earthquake killed more than 2,200 people and damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes.
Another priority is to find the brains behind the murder of Moses. Henry said he didn’t know why the president was killed. He also dismissed allegations by a chief prosecutor – whom he sacked – that there had been two phone calls between him and a key suspect just hours after the assassination.
Henry said he had no recollection of speaking to Joseph Badio, who was fired from the government’s anti-corruption unit in May and remains a fugitive, according to police, who are looking for him on charges of murder.
âIf this conversation took place, I don’t remember,â he said. “For me, that conversation never happened.”
Henry said he fired Port-au-Prince chief prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude and former justice minister Rockfeller Vincent for breaking the law and trying to politicize the situation.
âThey have no ethics and they are not credible,â he said.