Haitian president proposes 4th prime minister as public trust plummets

A screenshot of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse after he was confirmed the winner of the presidential election in 2017. Video uploaded by Africa News and published on January 4, 2017.

Haitian president Jovenel Moïse is looking for a new prime minister again. This will be his fourth during his two years in office.

The day after a July 21, 2019 meeting at his private residence with the president of Haiti's Senate and the president of the Lower Chamber, Moïse nominated Fritz William Michel, a civil servant with the Finance Ministry, as the new prime minister:

The presidents of the two branches of parliament meet the Head of State @moisejovenel, tonight, about the choice of a new PM and the formation of an exceptional government able to answer the concerns of the hour. #Haiti

To cope with the urgencies of the day, and following the resignation of Mr. Lapin, I chose, in consultation with the Presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, the citizen Fritz William Michel as PM, while waiting ratification of his policy statement.

Appointment of the 4th Prime Minister of Jovenel Moïse!

Fritz William MICHEL!

Michel will replace Jean Michel Lapin who, since his nomination in April, has never got the opportunity to present his general policy or get it ratified by Haiti's parliament. Because of several boycotts of the ratification sessions by a group of four senators, Lapin was unable to demonstrate that he had a good grasp of the country's socio-economic reality, security challenges or gang violence issues.

Moïse has had a hard time keeping his prime ministers. His first, Jacques Guy Lafontant, was sacrificed a year ago in July 2018, after a series of violent protests began over an ever-deepening socio-economic crisis that tested the Moïse administration.

President Moïse then brought Jean-Henry Céant on board, who only lasted about six months as prime minister. Céant had announced measures to tackle the crisis, especially after the intense February protests, but before the country could feel the slightest impact of his measures, his uneasy cohabitation with the president, rooted to divergence on key political issues, led to the sudden revocation of his position in March 2019.

Now, Moïse is obliged to let go of Lapin, whom he initially believed could be a better collaborator than Céant. The question of whether Moïse's next candidate is more fit to face the current challenges — and has more of a chance to be ratified by parliament — is already a question many citizens are asking:

Lapin confirmed that he submitted his resignation:

Prime Minister Jean Michel Lapin confirmed to La Nouvelliste mid-day to having resigned to President Jovenel Moïse, Monday, July 22, 2019. “I made a choice for Haiti,” said Lapin to the newspaper. This resignation paves the way for choosing a new PM

Too bad that Jovenel Moise cannot make “a choice for Haiti” by giving his resignation too

Twitter controversy

The newly nominated prime minister has already submitted his documents to the Lower Chamber as he awaits the opportunity to present his general policy. In fact, he has already formed a gender-balanced ministerial cabinet, but has, in the past, sparked serious controversy regarding poorly worded tweets that allegedly attacked members of the opposition and influential media personalities and lauded far right or conservative leaders such as US President Donald Trump, French politician Marine Le Pen and former Haitian president Michel Martelly.

Michel has rejected those allegations, but, his ability to get votes in the parliament aside, the Twitter controversy has already weakened his image and undermined his chances to be able to function in the prime ministerial role.

More concerned with image than issues?

While Moïse puts this new government in place, the nation's trust in his leadership continues to spiral downward. His administration weathered significant protests in June 2019, after the release of a second report from Haiti's High Court on PetroCaribe, which provided further details on the president's involvement in the corruption surrounding this regional energy programme spearheaded by Venezuela.

Haitians were also incensed over a July 12 op-ed that Moïse published in the Miami Herald, talking about the challenges of his administration. Some netizens felt Moïse addressed an international audience to polish Haiti's image rather than directly address Haitian citizens’ concerns.

In the same vein, citizens questioned Moïse's priorities when he hired a new lobbyist from Washington, DC, while the country's socio-economic crisis continues to deteriorate and the government is unable to pay its civil servants and diplomats:

18.6% is the figure for inflation in June 2019. The rise in prices continues in the Haitian economy. The country has not experienced such a high annual inflation since the 2008 Hunger Riot period. The authorities are losing control. There is reason to worry.

‘OAS’ hoax embarrassment

Challenged at home, Moïse seems to put more faith in international institutions. In June, feeling the heat from #PetroChallenger street protests, Moïse invited a mission from the Organization of American States (OAS) to calm the crisis. When citizens realized that the OAS did not mandate the mission, the invite was seen as an embarrassment. But Moïse boasted that Haiti is working with the OAS to create an independent group of international experts to do an audit of PetroCaribe, which some see as a blatant disregard of the Cour des Comptes report and Haitian institutions in general.

Moïse has promised a more open government that would include members of the opposition. Vocal sectors in the opposition and other groups such as the PetroChallengers, however, see Moïse's departure as the only way to resolve the crisis and move the country forward.

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