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Haiti's senate under fire for putting election process on hold
Published on April 26, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Haiti's senate has been the object of intense criticism for failing to approve a bill aimed at facilitating the holding of crucial legislative and local elections, without which the Caribbean country could be plunged into a deep political crisis.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
A US lawmaker, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, called this week on Haitian senators to approve amendments to an existing electoral law to allow the electoral council to organize, by the end of the year, a ballot to elect two thirds of the 30-member senate assembly and to renew the chamber of deputies, among other tasks.

Several representatives of the US government visited over the past weeks leaders and members of Parliament to voice Washington's concern about the impasse caused by the position of a number of senators.

Haitian President Michel Martelly, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and several members of the lower chamber have blamed the halt to the election process on a group of senators who have refused to proceed with the approval of the bill already passed by the deputies, as provided by a political agreement clinched in March.

"President Martelly and the government have done and will continue to do all that depends on us to make sure the elections are held this year," Lamothe told HCNN on Thursday.

"Now it is up to the senate to do its part so that relevant authorities may proceed with preparations for the ballot, which is unavoidable," Lamothe explained.

Parliament may become completely dysfunctional if the elections are not organized in time to allow the new legislature to be sworn in by the constitutional deadline of the second Monday of January 2015.

Lamothe said that the government has already disbursed over $10.3 million out of $14 million engaged by the current administration to fund the electoral process which will cost over $34 million. The US, the European Union, Canada and other donors will contribute the remaining amount.

Progress in the electoral process has been blocked by a group of opposition senators who have the capacity to prevent the senate from reaching the 16-senator quorum needed to hold a session.

One of the opposing senators, Jean-Baptiste Bien-Aimé, rejected accusations that his group would be trying to foil the electoral process.

"We want elections, but the elections should be organized properly and with a credible electoral council," Bien-Aimé told HCNN. "There should be a new electoral council before the approval of the law," he said.

Several members of the senate and the lower chamber -- Senator Wencessclass Lambert, Deputy Descollines Abel, Deputy Jean René Lochard, among others -- harshly criticized the position of the opposing group.

"There are senators who believe in chaos and who know that they won't be reelected if they go to election, so they are trying to block everything," Lochard, a member of the majority group at the lower chamber, told HCNN on Thursday.

Haitian authorities threatened to have recourse to Article 12 of a historic agreement concluded on March 14, which provides that the electoral council may bypass a series of inapplicable provisions in the current law, should Parliament fail to pass the proposed amendments.

The agreement, which was saluted by all the major international donors involved with Haiti, was signed by Martelly, representatives of Parliament and leaders of more than 50 political parties, in the framework of an inter-Haitian dialogue held under the auspices of the Catholic Church in Haiti.
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