President Jovenel Moïse last week appointed technocrat Fritz William Michel as his fourth prime minister since taking office in February 2017 after Jean Michel Lapin stepped aside after failing to get his government plan and cabinet approved by the bicameral legislature. President Moïse had appointed Lapin after Jean-Henry Céant quit in March following a no confidence vote.
Named to the post on 22 July, Michel, a relative unknown, is a civil servant with 14 years of experience in the economy & finance ministry where he held senior positions such as the head accountant for the general budget and administrative and financial director of the general inspectorate of finances. Michel has already made efforts to succeed where Lapin failed. Among other things the legislative opposition had objected to the fact that Lapin’s proposed cabinet did not meet the 30% minimum quota for women and included politicians who had been censured as well as controversial figures such as Jean Roody Aly, the former justice minister. Aly had been criticised over the lack of transparency surrounding the transfer to the US earlier this year of seven foreign individuals (five US nationals and two Serbians), following their detention in Haiti for possessing an arsenal of weapons. In contrast, however, Michel has appointed a gender parity cabinet with contentious choices such as Aly omitted.
- Michel’s proposed cabinet
While Fritz William Michel would pick up planning & foreign cooperation, his choices for the other portfolios are as follows: Marjorie Alexandre Brunache, a lawyer and daughter of former president Boniface Alexandre (2004-2006) (foreign affairs); Michel Patrick Boisvert (economy & finance); Margareth Toussaint Georges (justice & public security); Jacques-Renée Charles (public works, transport & communication); Anani Jean François (health); Audain Fils Bernadel, national coordinator of Tèt Ansamn party (interior & territorial communities); Pétricks Justin (environment); Marie Ghislaine Monpremier, vice president of the Fusion party (women); Jude Pierre Michel Lafontant (agriculture, natural resources & rural development); Pradel Henriquez (culture & communication); Jonas Coffy (trade & industry); Phélito Doran (social affairs & labour); Ronyde Bélizaire Imbert (education); Carline Choute (youth, sports & civic action); Ronald Gérard D’Mezard (defence); Marie Faustine Roxanne Kerby Hurley (tourism); and Marie Elise Finis Castillon (Haitians abroad).
However, in an open letter to senate president Carl Murat Cantave, a group of four opposition senators – Antonio Cheramy (Verite), Evalière Beauplan (Pont), Ricard Pierre (Pitit Dessalin), and Nènel Cassy (Fanmi Lavalas) – rejected the establishment of a new government, calling instead for Moïse himself to step aside. The four senators made headlines at the end of May after interrupting the senate vote on Lapin’s government plan, ransacking the chamber by moving chairs, desks, and other furniture outside. This prompted a statement of concern from the Core Group (comprising the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General, the ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the European Union, the US, and the Special Representative of the Organization of American States). These calls for Moïse to go have also been echoed by Jean Bonald Fatal, the president of the confederation of public and private sector workers of Haiti (CTSP) and James Beltis, a member of Nou p ap dòmi (We are not sleeping) – a group within the Petrochallenge anti-corruption movement.
In a report published on 9 July, UN Secretary General António Guterres warned the deadlock in efforts to confirm a new government has paralysed the functioning of the parliament, blocking the passing of important laws, including the 2018-2019 budget law and the electoral law, both of which are essential for the holding of legislative elections, which are scheduled for October 2019.
In his report, which comes as the UN is preparing to end its peacekeeping mission in Haiti in October, after 14 years, Guterres adds that the persistent political crisis and the deteriorating economic situation have contributed to an increase in violence and criminality. He notes the number of reported homicides for 2019 has doubled in comparison with 2018, with 523 cases from 1 January to 6 June versus 274 for the same period in 2018. He also points to an upsurge in gang activity since February with a marked increase of gang-on-gang violence in the poorest and most densely populated neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince.