Sat, May 05, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Haitian deputies approve choice of prime minister

INERTIA:President Michel Martelly has been in power for one year, but has had a prime minister for just four months, hindering his ability to govern effectively

AP, PORT-AU-PRINCE

Haitian Lawmakers on Thursday confirmed Haitian President Michel Martelly’s choice for a new prime minister, ending a nearly two-month impasse that had hampered the country’s efforts to rebuild from the devastating 2010 earthquake.

The Haitian Chamber of Deputies voted 62 to 3 with two abstentions for Laurent Lamothe to serve as Haiti’s head of government and lead quake reconstruction efforts.

Lamothe was a special adviser to Martelly before being named minister of foreign affairs and is currently co-chairman of an economic advisory panel with former US president Bill Clinton.

His approval ends a stalemate caused by the sudden resignation of the former Haitian prime minister Garry Conille, whose departure hampered Martelly’s ability to govern and caused unease among donor governments and organizations.

Before the legislative debate began on Thursday evening, Haiti’s leaders came under pressure from Clinton, the UN’s’ special envoy to Haiti, who urged them to confirm Lamothe and to establish a fully functioning government within the week.

Martelly, a first-time politician, has spent a year in office, but has had a prime minister for only four of those months. Infighting between Martelly and his critics in the opposition-controlled parliament and even in his administration has become routine.

Conille resigned in February after clashing with the president.

“I believe that the Haitian people deserve better from their leaders,” Clinton said before the vote.

He said officials must set aside their differences and self--interests to “restore confidence in the Haitian institutions so that donor funds can flow again and attract new investment.”

Countries around the world and multilateral organizations pledged about US$4.5 billion after the earthquake, but only a little more than half of that money has been disbursed, according to the UN Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti.

The six-hour debate in the Chamber of Deputies, broadcast live on national television, centered around whether Lamothe met residency qualifications, a topic that plagued the first step of his successful confirmation by the Haitian Senate last month. Haiti’s constitution requires government officials to have spent five consecutive years in Haiti as well as pay taxes.

Lamothe’s critics charged that he had not paid taxes or lived in the country long enough to be eligible for office. One deputy suggested the required paperwork submitted to show eligibility could have been fraudulent.

Lamothe, 39, is a relative newcomer to Haitian politics. Receiving a college and graduate degree in south Florida, he ran a telecommunications company before entering public office.

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