Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Haiti’s Institutional Crisis Deepens

by Isabelle L. Papillon (Haiti Liberte)

Seventeen months after President Michel Martelly became Haiti’s head of state with Washington’s backing, Haiti is plunged into a downward spiral of institutional and political crisis. This crisis traces its roots to Martelly’s illegal publication of amendments to Haiti’s 1987 Constitution earlier this year and his illegal appointment of judges to Haiti’s Supreme Court.

            Article 289 of the amended 1987 Constitution calls for a Provisional Electoral Council until a Permanent Electoral Council can be formed, as provided for in Article 192.

            The nine-member Permanent Electoral Council (CEP) is supposed to have three representatives designated by each of the Haitian government’s three branches: executive, judiciary, and parliamentary. However, it cannot be formed for two reasons. First, there are only 20 sitting Senators (the terms of 10 expired in May). Due to opposition in its ranks, the Senate has been unable to convene two-thirds of its members in a National Assembly to designate its three parliamentary representatives to a Permanent Council. Secondly, in August, four of the nine members of the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSPJ) disavowed the three members appointed by their body to the CEP, saying they were illegally chosen under the leadership of the CSPJ’s president, Anel Alexis Joseph, who is also head of the Supreme Court. The Senate passed a resolution demanding President Martelly recall the three CEP representatives illegally appointed by the CSPJ.

            Meanwhile, the CSPJ has appointed three new representatives to the CEP: Applys Félix, Léopold Berlanger, and Carole Floréal Duclervil. The CSPJ now has six representatives on the CEP, which is totally contrary to the Constitution and has been widely denounced.

            Worse still, all of these officials have been appointed by the CSPJ to the CEP in a totally irregular manner. The three new CEP members and the three previous appointees – Yves Benoit Jean-Marie, Salnave Exantus, Patrick Metellus – are all illegal and illegitimate due to the irregularities in the appointment of three judges to the Supreme Court. (Exantus and Jean-Marie declared on Oct. 8 that they are "immovable under the Constitution" because they have taken an oath).

            This pyramid of illegalities committed in forming the CEP is why leading senators and many other scholars, activists, and jurists are calling for the formation of a Provisional Electoral Council of Consensus.

            Senator Steven Benoit and 16 other senators passed a resolution saying that the appointment of the CSPJ’s six representatives to the CEP is null and void future and that Anel Alexis Joseph along with Supreme Court Judges Kesner Michel Thermesi and Frantzi Philémon have been named to and occupy their posts illegally and irregularly. This is because neither Thermesi nor Philémon were on the list of Supreme Court justices nominees which the Senate provided Martelly (the president must name judges from that list) and Anel Alexis Joseph was older than 65, after which age new judges cannot be sworn in. The three illegally seated justices were key to the CSPJ’s illegal seating of the CEP’s current six members.

            The senators are calling for the six controversial CEP members to step aside to facilitate the formation of a new Provisional Council and resolution of the crisis.

            Haiti’s human rights organizations agree. Antonal Mortimé, Secretary General of the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), called for the repeal of the Aug. 15 decree illegally appointing six members to Martelly’s CEP and the formation instead of a Provisional Electoral Council to organize overdue elections for Senate seats and municipal governments. Most political parties, both on the left and the right, favor the formation of a Provisional Electoral Council, including the Organization of Struggling People (OPL) and the Lavalas Family.

            Despite the bitter and widespread outcry, President Martelly and his illegally-appointed Supreme Court head, Anel Alexis Joseph, continue to thumb their nose at Haiti’s Constitution and Parliament. Rather than compromise, they appear to seek provocation. In an Oct. 9, 2012 decree, President Martelly summoned the Parliament to a special session on Oct. 11 at 2:00 p.m. (just when the President knew his nemesis, Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles, would be in New York, speaking to UN officials). Martelly’s proposed legislative agenda was to ask Parliament to name three representatives to serve on the CEP.

            But Sen. Jean William Jeanty, one of the nine senators strongly opposed to Martelly’s arrogant and reactionary tactics, denounced the move. "It is inconceivable" that Martelly would try to summon the Parliament in an extraordinary session to appoint representatives to the CEP, Jeanty said. "The controversies in Parliament surrounding the issue of the so-called permanent CEP have not yet been resolved." Jeanty questioned whether President Martelly genuinely wants to hold elections in Haiti.

            Meanwhile, two different postures toward the crisis have emerged among diplomats based in Haiti. Brazil, for example, refuses to interfere in Haiti’s internal affairs, while France continues to meddle with arrogance and impertinence.

            "We do not express opinions about Haiti’s internal affairs, but we do talk to leaders to encourage them to show flexibility in order not to paralyze the country," said Brazilian Ambassador, Luiz Machado Costa to the Haiti Press Network (HPN), an online news agency. The diplomat, who arrived in Haiti more than six months ago, remains very cautious. "It is not our style of diplomacy to comment publicly on the internal affairs of a country," he said, "because we would not want a foreigner landing in Brazil to tell us what to do."

            However, Costa wants a climate of peace and compromise between political forces. "Stability is needed to move the economy and create jobs," he said, also calling for the strengthening of political parties in Haiti and civil society’s involvement to prevent crisis situations.

            In contrast, Didier Le Bret, France’s Ambassador to Haiti, called the CSPJ’s appointment of three more CEP members “an important step” towards resolving the pre-election crisis. The French ambassador said that he was confident that this impasse would soon be resolved. As proof, he said that just a few months ago, people were wondering how Haiti was going to get out of the crisis of President Martelly’s alleged dual nationality or the occupation by former Haitian soldiers of some Haitian government buildings.  "Well then," he said, "all these crises have been resolved."

            But Deputy Levaillant Louis-Jeune disagreed with the ambassador about those crises and the current one. “The crisis is only getting worse,” he said. He called on President Martelly to annul the order appointing a Permanent Electoral Council of six members and to start from scratch.

            In recent anti-Martelly demonstrations, protesters have carried flyers calling on Le Bret, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White, to be expelled as “persona non grata” for their meddling in Haitian internal affairs. Demonstrators also claim that Ambassador Le Bret openly wears a pink bracelet, a sign of support for President Martelly who is increasingly denounced and rejected by the Haitian people.

Supreme Court and CSPJ head Anel Alexis Joseph, seen here shaking hands with Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, was illegally appointed and is now illegally appointing would-be members of a highly contested Permanent Electoral Council.

Sen. Jean William Jeanty: "The controversies in Parliament surrounding the issue of the so-called permanent CEP have not yet been resolved."

French Ambassador to Haiti Didier Le Bret opined that the CSPJ’s naming of new CEP members was legal and "an important step."

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