Haitian Senate Stalls Prime Minister’s Approval

Haiti’s prime minister designate, Jack Guy Lafontant, was scheduled for confirmation Monday by the country’s Senate. Instead, he and his newly appointed Cabinet were left in limbo when several senators from his own party walked off the floor of parliament in an apparent demand for power sharing.

Lafontant, a member of the ruling Bald Heads Party (PHTK), needed 16 of 30 Senate votes to be confirmed. Nineteen senators had shown up at the parliament building, but repeatedly delayed the hearing. Then four senators departed, leaving the Senate without a quorum.

Meanwhile, Lafontant and his 18 Cabinet members reportedly boarded a bus outside the national palace, anticipating the five-minute ride to the parliament building for confirmation. They were not summoned.

No date has been set for the Senate to reconvene.

The lack of a functioning government is another setback for Haiti, which grappled with almost two years of political turmoil over the country’s presidency until Jovenel Moïse was sworn in February 7.

The country of more than 10 million is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, still recovering from a devastating earthquake in 2010, a deadly hurricane last October and a continuing cholera epidemic.

Moïse, a banana exporter, previously had not held public office, nor has his pick for prime minister. Lafontant is a physician.

The two should negotiate with the disgruntled senators who are seeking more power, possibly Cabinet posts, said two PHTK senators. Approving a prime minister in Haiti typically involves a lot of bargaining.

Herve Fourcand, one of the PHTK senators, rejected the charge that his party was responsible for failing to ratify the new government.

Another senator, Antonio Cheramy, criticized his four colleagues for walking out Monday.

“I stayed in the session, I didn’t walk out,” he told reporters Monday, “although I didn’t know if I would vote against or for the prime minister.”

Gédéon Jean, a political analyst in Port-au-Prince, raised another possibility: that Lafontant was not the person Moise ultimately intended to have as his governing partner.

“I’m wondering if they are not throwing him under the bus,” Jean said of Lafontant. “Is he the real choice of the president? I don’t know.”

VOA Creole Service stringer Renan Toussaint contributed to this report.

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