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Dec 14, 2014 2:34 AM

Haiti PM resigns amid political discontent

The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe announced early Sunday that he was resigning along with several ministers in the wake of violent anti-government protests and a commission's call for him to step down.

In a speech that was delayed past midnight, Lamothe said he was leaving "with a sense of accomplishment," adding: "This country has undergone a deep and dynamic transformation and a real change in benefit of its people."

President Michel Martelly said earlier he accepted the findings of the commission that had recommended Lamothe's replacement.

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

Lamothe's resignation complicates the current political situation because nominations for a new prime minister require approval from Parliament and it is unclear whether someone would be nominated before Parliament is dissolves in January, 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 telephone 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.

Haiti's capital has endured a growing number of violent demonstrations in recent weeks during which protesters have demanded the holding of elections that were expected in 2011 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 fired tear gas. It was not immediately clear how the man died, but 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's administration blamed the delay in holding elections 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."

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.


Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.


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