Since his swearing-in as the 56th president of Haiti on May 14, 2011, Michel Martelly tried turning over every leaf around the globe, seeking new investment opportunities for his homeland. Consecutive trips to the United States and Spain respectively, after assuming office, attested to his aspirations: bring needed attention to the ravaged country. However, political firestorms looming over his administration cast a fog of uncertainty over his ability to work conjointly with the Haitian parliament and establish a stable environment that would attract potential investors.
Critics faulted the president for failing to prioritize urgent domestic affairs over his ambitious foreign policy endeavors. “Mr. Martelly must understand this is not a music band competition,” said Jean-Hector Anacacis, vice president of the senate. “It’s politics; there must be compromise and agreements,” he added talking about Martelly’s uncompromising approach to governance.
Political analysts even hinted at a recurring pattern developing under the crumbled Haitian palace: political stagnation amidst a power struggle between the executive and legislative branches, sentiments reflected in the ongoing war of rhetoric between the president and lawmakers. The vehement rejection of Daniel Rouzier, the president’s designated Prime Minister, did little to improve the tense political climate.
The House of Deputies, in early June, stroke down Rouzier’s nomination with a 42-19 vote, slapping Martelly with his first major political defeat. It was the first time, since the inception of the 1987 Constitution, a president failed to obtain a parliamentary majority to approve his nomination. His predecessor, ex-President Rene Preval took 25 days after swearing-in to secure such majority, winning the parliament’s approval. Sources close to the president revealed that his choice was far from unanimity within his own inner circle and even provoked many disagreements.
“That vote did not surprise me,” continued Anacacis. “I predicted this,” he said on a radio show aired on station Magik 9. “Judging by President Michel Martelly’s management style, it was a matter of time,” he added speaking about the deputies’ vote.
While Rouzier’s rejection by the lower house sent Martelly back to the drawing board with a strong message, he did not relent. He turned to the nation in a televised
address, thanking it for its democratic exercise: not flooding the public sphere with protests over the decision of the lower house. Lawmakers denounced that strategy as a call to violence, asserting that they too– like the president– were elected officials voted by the people to ensure checks and balances in government.
Meanwhile, Martelly’s second choice for Prime Minister, former Justice Bernard Honorat Gousse, faced even stronger opposition in the Haitian Senate that began analyzing his documents late Thursday July 21. An anti-Gousse coalition emerged immediately following Martelly’s announcement; an opposition that took shape in a petition letter signed by 16 of 30 senators, urging the president to reconsider his designation. Among many reasons for their non-negotiable stance were human rights violations against Gousse in the political vacuüm that followed the ousting of ex-President Jean Bertrand Aristide.
In a speech given at Jacmel, a historic city in Southeastern Haiti, President Martelly reminded lawmakers that he was the one paying their salaries. Those statements did not sit well with members of the parliament who complained the president threatened to dissolve the parliament and resign immediately after.
In spite of the heated rhetoric between him and lawmakers, the president met twice with the opposing majority that threatened to hand him his second consecutive political defeat in as many months, a setback that would rob Martelly of serious political capital and further plunge Haiti into pits of political instability. Talking to the Haitian media, members of the anti-Gousse team, many of who from former exiled and ex-President Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas, admitted that Martelly’s efforts proved fruitless and his nominee stood no chance. However, Martelly remained optimistic, maintaining that he had the support of a senate majority and was confident his nominee would survive the senate.
Absent a majority in Haiti’s legislative body, Martelly’s bargaining power depends, to a large extent, on his negotiating skills and leadership capabilities. It is a Herculean task for the newly elected president who only has three legislators from his party, Repons Peyizan, in parliament. Equally important, Martelly, a former band manager, is a political novice, which made him the attractive agent of change to his voters, but also made him vulnerable to the country’s political machine. While the anti-Gousse coalition affirmed its position, pundits urged leaders to set aside their differences, abandon current political discourse and prioritize the needs of the people who voted them into office. People grew increasingly wary of distasteful political theater, they maintained.
Martelly campaigned on change and a rupture with the reigning political class, promises he found increasingly difficult to keep as realities of Haitian politics settled on his administration that depends largely on compromises with lawmakers to roll out his agenda. While many people characterized the current political showdown between the executive and legislative branches as a healthy democratic discourse, others– less optimistic– predicted yet another political meltdown for the earthquake-ravaged country yearning for competent leadership.
- Anger in Haiti as new leader stumbles in politics (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- For PM, Martelly Picks Former Justice Minister Who Persecuted Aristide Supporters under Illegal Gov’t. Selected by US in 2004 (hcvanalysis.wordpress.com)
- Anger in Haiti Rises as New Leader Stumbles (time.com)
- Anger in Haiti as New Leader Stumbles in Politics (foxnews.com)
- Haiti: Strike Two! 16 of 30 Senators Oppose Prez Martelly’s Second PM Nominee (hcvanalysis.wordpress.com)
- Haiti WikiLeaks Spark Political Furor and Elite Drama (hcvanalysis.wordpress.com)
- Martelly wants business leader as prime minister (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Haiti president confident second PM passes (seattletimes.nwsource.com)