Dec 14, 2014 1:23 AM

Haiti awaits PM speech amid political discontent

The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe kept Haiti in suspense early Sunday as he delayed a speech on a possible resignation in the wake of violent anti-government protests and a commission's call for him to step down.

Lamothe announced via Twitter on Saturday he would deliver a speech later in the day, but midnight passed without a statement.

Damian Merlo, an adviser for Lamothe, tweeted shortly before midnight that the prime minister was rehearsing his speech.

"It's an important one and needs to be precise please hang tight," he wrote.

President Michel Martelly said earlier he accepted the findings of the commission that had recommended Lamothe's replacement, though he did not explicitly say the prime minister would resign.

Martelly appointed Lamothe as prime minister in 2012, and some political analysts believe Lamothe might seek the presidency in upcoming elections.

Haiti's capital has endured a growing number of violent demonstrations demanding long-delayed elections and the resignations of Lamothe as well as Martelly.

On Saturday, one man was found dead in a protest in Port-Au-Prince during clashes with police who were firing tear gas. It was not immediately clear how the man died, although he was shot at least once in the wrist. Demonstrations also spread to other towns, including Gonaives and Cap-Haitien.

The unrest followed a demonstration Friday in which U.N. peacekeeping troops opened fire on a crowd that marched through Port-au-Prince, set tires on fire and skirmished with troops and police.

Martelly has been under pressure to call elections, which have been expected since 2011. His administration blames the delay on six opposition senators who contend legislation that would authorize the vote unfairly favors the government.

The commission set up to break the impasse recommended that Lamothe resign, along with the head of the Supreme Court and current members of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council. It also called for the release of several "political prisoners."

Speaking to the nation late Friday, Martelly said he accepted the commission's findings and that Lamothe was prepared to make a sacrifice and resign. Lamothe was at the announcement but did not speak.

Martelly said he would meet Monday with government officials to discuss the commission's report.

Administration officials have insisted the government wants to hold the elections. The terms of 10 senators expire in mid-January and Parliament will be dissolved, meaning Martelly would rule by decree.

If Lamothe resigns, it would further complicate the political situation because nominations of a prime minister require approval from Parliament and it is unclear whether someone would be nominated before Parliament is dissolved, said Michael Deibert, author of "Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti."

He noted that Lamothe was Martelly's third nomination for prime minister during a drawn-out selection process.

"Without a functioning Parliament and without a prime minister, I'm afraid it could be a tumultuous time in January," Deibert said in a phone interview from Cap-Haitien.

He warned that political instability would undermine confidence in the government and the confidence that the international community has in Haiti in terms of investment.

"That's not an image that Haiti wants to project to the world," Deibert said.


Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico


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