Tue, Jan 13, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Haiti leader, opposition deal may break impasse

AP, PORT-AU-PRINCE

Protesters block a street with cars during a march against the government of Haitian President Michel Martelly in Port-au-Prince on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Haitian President Michel Martelly on Sunday said that he had forged a last-minute accord with leaders of four opposition parties after days of closed-door negotiations, possibly creating a viable path to ending a political standoff blamed for stalling long-delayed elections.

“Through this agreement, we are sure to achieve normalization of the political situation in the country,” Martelly said at a Port-au-Prince hotel following talks with the leadership of opposition factions, including the Unity Party of former Haitian president Rene Preval.

The president and opposition lawmakers have been in a political showdown over legislative elections due since 2011, when he was supposed to call a vote for a majority of Haiti’s senate seats, the entire Chamber of Deputies and local offices.

After days of fruitless negotiations with legislators, Martelly on Sunday reportedly achieved consensus to try to end the impasse. The electoral law must still be approved by legislators; an emergency session was scheduled for yesterday after the senate failed to achieve a quorum on Sunday night.

The government feels it now has the support needed to win the vote.

Martelly, who took power in May 2011 and is due to leave next year, was set to rule by decree if political leaders had not resolved the nation’s crisis by authorizing the law last night.

Haitian Senate President Simon Desras told reporters that he was hopeful that the political gridlock could be resolved within the next 24 hours.

He said he expected participation of at least three, but possibly four, members of a group of six senators who have used parliamentary procedure to prevent a vote authorizing the elections. They accuse Martelly of trying to undermine the Haitian Constitution.

“I am confident and feeling positive that we can solve this,” Desras said before a parliamentary session was scheduled yesterday.

In a statement on Sunday, the US embassy said it strongly supported efforts by Martelly to end the impasse, referring to what it termed his “wide-ranging concessions,” including the recent removal of his prime minister.

The US said that, regardless of yesterday’s legislative outcome, it would continue to work with Martelly and “whatever legitimate Haitian government institutions remain to safeguard the significant gains” achieved since a devastating 2010 earthquake.

There has been an uptick in street protests led by opposition factions that have caused a measure of mayhem in downtown Port-au-Prince.

On Sunday, mostly young male protesters again burned tires and threw rocks at riot police in the capital, who fired tear gas and sprayed water from armored vehicles.

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