Haitian President Michel Martelly (C) signing the historic agreement on behalf of the executive branch
By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Haitian protagonists from different political sides clinched during the weekend a historical agreement to end a political impasse which had posed a threat to the holding of crucial elections and the Caribbean country's stability.
At the end of a series of talks among political actors, representatives of political parties, the executive and legislative branches signed on Friday an agreement to solve differences on the organization of credible legislative and local elections, on governance and constitutional issues.
Haitian President Michel Martelly, who signed the document on behalf of the executive branch, called the agreement a victory for democracy and highlighted the historical aspect of the political deal which is the result of intense negotiations which have involved only Haitian nationals.
"I am happy to sign this agreement which is historical in the sense that we had never seen rival political actors gather together, without any international involvement, to discuss and find solutions to our differences, for the common good," Martelly told HCNN on Saturday.
The Haitian leader was referring to the fact that meetings to try to solve political conflicts among Haitians were usually held under the auspices of a foreign or international entity and such talks often came short of the expected results.
"My will is to lead on solving our differences through constructive dialogue and to take appropriate actions to build a better future for the Haitian people and particularly the poor," said Martelly.
The parties agreed that Martelly will open the government to opposition parties, that elections will take place by the end of the year (no later than October 26 for the first round) and that one third of the nine-member electoral council may be changed by relevant state institutions (the executive, parliament and the judiciary) which had designated them.
The parties concurred in entrusting parliament with the task to amend, within the next ten working days, the current electoral law to allow the holding of a ballot to elect two thirds of the 30-member Senate assembly, contrary to the existing legislation which provides for the renewal of only one third.
The political actors also agreed on the need to bring new amendments to the current constitution and announced the creation of a commission, comprised of representatives of the executive and legislative branches as well as leaders of political parties and other observer groups, to reflect on the matter and other issues.
"The agreement is a positive achievement and it is historical because it is for the first time such an event has occurred, without any intrusion of foreign powers," Sauveur Pierre-Etienne, the leader of the People's Struggle opposition party, told HCNN.
"The atmosphere of the discussions was good. President Martelly, opposition parties and others, we were, all, trying our best to find solutions," said Pierre-Etienne
The agreement was signed by Martelly, Senator Steven Benoit, who was mandated to sign on behalf of the president of the Senate now travelling to Europe, and by more than 50 parties of different political affiliations which were part of the talks held under the mediation of the first Haitian Cardinal, Chibly Langlois.
However, three political parties, including the Lavalas Family party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, had withdrawn from the talks because they wanted the departure of the entire government. Aristide's party is also engaged in a movement to try to force President Martelly from power.
Many believe the agreement clinched between Martelly, moderate opposition parties, Parliament representatives and others, is likely to isolate political extremists who vow to pursue their wish to make a clean sweep of the country's elected leadership and of current efforts to reinforce institutional development and stability.
However, it is also understood that the historic agreement won't prevent those political hardliners from persisting in their effort to reach the pursued ‘blank slate’. It is also clear that the agreement and those who signed it will soon be the target of attacks from such extremist groups.