Haiti PM Laurent Lamothe quits in wake of protests

Anti-government protesters carry tyres to set fire to at road blocks in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince at the weekend. Picture: AP
Anti-government protesters carry tyres to set fire to at road blocks in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince at the weekend. Picture: AP
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HAITI’S prime minister Laurent Lamothe announced yesterday 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 his speech Mr 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 Mr Lamothe’s ­replacement.

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

His resignation complicates the 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 dissolved in January, said Michael Deibert, journalist and author of Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti.

He noted that Mr Lamothe was Mr 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,” Mr Deibert said yesterday.

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,” he added.

Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, has endured a growing number of violent demonstrations in recent weeks, during which protesters have demanded the elections that were expected in 2011 and the resignations of Mr Lamothe and Mr Martelly.

On Saturday, one man was found dead in a protest 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 on Friday in which UN peacekeeping troops opened fire on a crowd that marched through Port-au-Prince, set tyres on fire and skirmished with troops and police.

Mr Martelly’s administration blamed the delay in holding elections on six opposition senators who said legislation that would authorise the vote unfairly favours the ­government.

The commission set up to break the impasse recommended Mr Lamothe resign, along with the head of the Supreme Court and members of Haiti’s provisional Electoral Council. It also called for the release of several “political prisoners”.

Mr Martelly said he would meet government officials today to discuss the commission’s ­report.

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