Exactly one week after an American delegation spearheaded by Kenneth Merten, U.S. ambassador to Haiti, met Haitian political actors in Petionville, news of a nomination invaded the Haitian airways. Leaders, the media and sources close to the president sang in unison: the designation of a third prime minister would, over the labor day weekend, escape President Michel Martelly’s lips.
Just over a week ago however, a consensus to help forge a government and jump-start the country’s recovery efforts was impractical. Neither the executive nor parliament would concede an inch, clinging to power like a child his or her father’s legs. “The president found himself on a slippery slope, thinking that he could circumvent parliament to appoint ministers from the incumbent government,” said Senator Wencesclass Lambert, a representative from the South East Department. Characterized by the Washington Post, “Haiti was still in the mud,” as Martelly’s unilateralism wrestled with a punishing parliament.
Lambert, a devout member of the opposing senate majority that rejected Bernard Gousse, Martelly’s second nominee for prime minister last month, called on the president to respect his constitutional boundaries. “Under no circumstances,” he reiterated, “parliamentarians would ever allow Martelly to nominate all 42 diplomatic chiefs in Haiti and abroad, 36 posts for director general and 18 ministry positions by himself.” Lambert further reminded everyone Martelly only had three deputies from his party out of a 99-member lower house that rejected entrepreneur Daniel Rouzier, the president’s first nominee for the post.
Nevertheless, after Washington’s short visit this week, the president and parliament found their misplaced motivation, officially designating physician Garry Conille as the third prime minister to head his government. “I have just received a letter from the president naming Mr. Conille,” revealed Senate President Rodolphe Joazile to Agence France Press (AFP) ahead of Martelly’s official announcement Monday, September 5, 2011.
Conille, 45, is an alumnus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill who did his doctoral work at the State University of Haiti. He began his U.N. career in 1999, serving in Ethiopia and, in June, became Resident Coordinator of United Nations Development Programme in Niger. The seasonal development worker also served as chief of staff to former U.S. President Bill Clinton in his post-quake work as U.N.’s special envoy to Haiti and co-chairman of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) that coordinates the country’s reconstruction initiatives.
Those developments, although a breakthrough in the recent political deadlock, drew sharp criticism in many political and civil circles. Critics pointed to leaders’ fierce advocacy for a pivotal role in the reconstruction of their homeland following the Jan. 12 earthquake. “We are the masters of our land and our destiny,” they professed with the passion of a loyal child. However, reasoned political analysts, it was once again international pressure, namely the U.S. that compelled incompetent leaders to set their personal bickering aside and prioritize the country’s needs. Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, head of Peasants of Papaya Movement, denounced the role of international actors in the nomination of one of their own, arguing, Conille’s Presence on the political scene would prolong Haiti’s dependency.
For the most part, parliamentarians controlled their initial reactions to Conille’s designation, including members of the senate majority at the heart of the opposition. Meanwhile, people familiar with the ratification process argued Conille could face some opposition given his residency status. In fact, the vice president of the senate
Jean Hector Anacacis publicly announced his nay vote on Conille’s ratification, citing non-conformity to article 157 of the 1987 Constitution that required five consecutive years of residency of any candidate for the post of prime minister. “Should the conscript peers respect the spirit and the letter of the constitution,” argued the senator from the West Department. “An unfavorable vote for Mr. Conille would be inevitable,” he added.
Potentially more problematic, Conille is the son of Dr. Serge Conille, former Minister of State to ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, reported Haiti Liberte, a left-leaning Haitian weekly. Some analysts perceived his nomination as a resurgence of the conservative right, especially with Nicolas Duvalier, the 29-year-old son of the former dictator, among many others, serving on Martelly’s advising team.
As the House of Deputies launched the ratification process Tuesday, the parliament was far from unanimity, making it increasingly difficult to identify any majority in either house. Instead, a divide emerged early Tuesday among lawmakers some of whom followed Anacacis’ leads on the residency deterrence. Others, such as Deputies Emmanuel Fritz Gerard Bourjolly and Jude Charles Faustin, embraced Martelly’s choice with enthusiasm, highlighting his academic accomplishments and extensive resume in management.
As prescribed by the Haitian Constitution, a commission of nine members will implement the technical phase, ensuring Conille’s documents meet constitutional requirements. Lawmakers hope to have those documents as early as Thursday to speed up the process.
Upon receiving a favorable nod from the lower house, the senate would enact the political phase where senators make sure Conille’s views and plans were in line with the country’s political schematic. Both upper and lower houses must give the green light to Conille before he could establish his government and end the political crisis. Unfavorable votes from either house would send Martelly back to square one, restarting the entire process.
- Haiti leader announces 3rd pick for PM post (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Haiti leader announces 3rd pick for PM post (sfgate.com)
- Bill Clinton aide nominated for Haiti PM (telegraph.co.uk)
- Bill Clinton aide named as Haiti’s 3rd pick for PM (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Clinton aide mooted as Haitian PM (independent.co.uk)