Haiti’s PM forced to resign after anti-government protests

PORT-AU-PRINCE  -HAITIs Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe announced his resignation early Sunday, following repeated calls for him to step down amid anti-government protests and a political crisis in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Lamothe’s resignation had been widely expected after President Michel Martelly said Friday that the prime minister was ready to leave “to help find a solution” to the country’s political impasse that has seen a failure to hold parliamentary elections in the last three years.

“If this is what can really unblock the political crisis, I decided tonight to give President Martelly my resignation as head of government, along with the resignation of all ministers,” Lamothe said during a televised speech broadcast in Creole.

Lamothe, who leaves amid renewed violent protest against the ruling elite, touted his government’s “remarkable” record, which he said had seen reduced poverty over the course of three years and a 50 percent drop in crime.

“I am leaving the post of prime minister this evening with a feeling of accomplishment,” Lamothe said in the address, as tweeted by Haiti’s communication ministry from its official account.

Haiti has been mired in political crisis for three years over its failure to hold long-delayed municipal and legislative elections.

“I recognise  that he’s taken this step to help Haiti find an end to the crisis. I commend him for his courage and determination in helping Haiti,” Martelly said.

If elections are not held before January 12, the legislature will be automatically dissolved and Martelly can rule by decree.

Martelly’s foes have accused him of returning Haiti to dictatorial rule. The country’s former strongman Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier died in October.

“Baby Doc” Duvalier came to office in 1971 aged only 19, taking over upon the death of his still more feared father Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, Haiti’s self-styled president for life.

Opposition parties boycotted recent talks initiated by the government aimed at resolving the crisis before the end of the year.

An advisory commission set up by the president recommended last week that Lamothe resign.

The commission also recommended disbanding Haiti’s electoral council and freeing political prisoners.

Martelly said he would hold meetings Monday to implement the commission’s recommendations. He will chose a new prime minister with input from the heads of both chambers of Parliament.

On Saturday, one man was shot dead during a new round of anti-government demonstrations in the Haitian capital calling for both the president and prime minister to resign.

Clashes broke out when hundreds of youths tried to break through police barricades to enter the presidential palace. It was not clear who had fired the fatal shot.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, which is still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake, has struggled with a difficult post-colonial legacy, corrupt rule, civil unrest, environmental degradation and natural disaster.

The January 2010 earthquake devastated vast tracts of the capital killing more than 100,000, and a cholera epidemic affected some 700,000 people, killing more than 8,500. – Sapa-AFP