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Protests in Haiti as political deadlock continues

“Those of us who fight, who want another Haiti, a Haitian pearl of the West Indies, say no to the dictatorship,” a protester told Reuters in Port-au-Prince, the capital, where the Haitian opposition and civil society groups called the protest. Another criticized the United States and international organizations for supporting the president.

At the heart of the protests is a dispute over the president’s term limit: Moise only served four of the usual five years and says his term ends in 2022 – a position supported by the United States, the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

Protesters, however, say he should have stepped down on February 7, citing a constitutional provision that triggers timing once a president is elected, rather than when he takes office.

“We want the international community (to understand) that the Haitian people will not back down on their demands. Jovenel Moise must leave the national palace for a peaceful transition that can lead us to elections,” said opposition leader André Michel at CNN. Sunday.

Moise dismissed the protesters as “a minority of people“Seeking to destabilize the state and seize power, and refused to consider calls for a transitional government, instead asking the opposition to wait for general elections later this year.

Legislative elections are long overdue in Haiti. After the country’s parliament was dissolved last year, Moise failed to hold a new election, leaving legislative and municipal posts across the country empty and the population effectively unrepresented. The vacant parliament means Moise is currently in power by decree.

Earlier this month, the president also ordered three Supreme Court justices to retire, accusing them of plans on his desk – a decision legal experts have ruled unconstitutional at CNN. In protest, Haitian justice has stopped its work, putting courts and tribunals across the country on hiatus.

Haiti’s national bar association and the Supreme Judicial Council (CSPJ) – a powerful body that appoints, dismisses and disciplines judges – have sided with the opposition in calling on Moise to resign. So some American lawmakers.

However, the international community and the administration of US President Joe Biden have broadly expressed support for Moise’s retention in power until 2022, although there are concerns about his recent handling of protests and the Supreme Court.

“I am alarmed by recent authoritarian and undemocratic acts – from unilateral dismissals and appointments of Supreme Court justices to attacks on journalists, ”tweeted Julie Chung, acting assistant secretary of the US State Department’s Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs on February 16.
She urged Haiti to organize legislative elections “as soon as possible.
Protests in Haiti as political deadlock continues
This month’s protests also reflect years of growing bitterness in Haiti over the country’s economic pain and violent crime. Murders and a wave of hundreds of kidnappings in particular have sparked public outrage, according to a recent United Nations report, which recorded a monthly average of 84 protests in the second half of 2020.

Moise blamed his administration’s poor record in dealing with these fundamental questions about the country’s system of governance, as well as the complications and lack of clarity of the constitution itself. “Since the start of my mandate, the country has never known stability,” he admitted in a February 12 tweet.

In a bid to hold the president’s office accountable for the future, he promised to hold a referendum on changes to the constitution in April. This will be his legacy project, Haiti’s Ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, told CNN.

However, critics are skeptical of the legitimacy of any constitutional change made in the current political climate and in the absence of institutional checks and balances. General elections are expected to follow in the fall.

In a speech last Sunday, amid the Carnival celebrations, which he celebrated with a large crowd of supporters and revelers, Moise expressed his determination to see the country through another year.

“Haiti is for me, for my children, for the people who dance here. People who don’t want me to do people’s jobs will stop, or I’ll make them stop. I was elected to do a job, and I will do it, ”he said.

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