Haiti left with no elected government officials as it spirals towards anarchy | Haiti
The last 10 remaining senators in Haiti’s parliament have officially stepped down, leaving the country without a single democratically elected official.
The expiration of the officials’ terms at midnight on Monday officially ended their time in office — and with it, the last semblance of democratic order in the beleaguered Caribbean nation.
Haiti – which is currently gripped by gang violence and the worst malnutrition crisis in decades – now officially has no functioning parliament as senators were the last of 30 left in office after successive failed attempts to hold elections.
There is now no constitutional representation at any state level, the latest sign that the country has turned into a failed state.
“The constitution, which until now we have referred to as a framework for political transition, is essentially just a letter because none of the institutional architecture it describes is currently in place,” said Renata Segura, deputy director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Group. International Crisis Group, a peacebuilding think tank.
Haiti has been plagued by a series of acute, overlapping crises as gangs violently exploit a power vacuum to expand their control over the capital.
Every democratic institution, from Haiti’s justice system to the parliament, is no longer functioning.
All local authority terms were set to expire in 2020 and when the high court last convened in February 2022, only five of the 12 judges remained in office.
The breakdown of Haitian democracy and its institutions has made it impossible to confront the warring factions, which now control about two-thirds of Port-au-Prince.
A country of 12 million people, Haiti has not held timely legislative elections since October 2019 and was plunged further into uncertainty when its president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in July 2021 by Colombian mercenaries in circumstances that remain unclear.
All local and national political mandates have already expired, while questions hang over the constitutional legitimacy of the interim government, which has not set a date for the next round of elections.
Moïse had controversially extended his term before he was killed, and the succession of Ariel Henry – previously prime minister – has never been ratified by law.
Henry is seen as illegitimate by most Haitians, and his request in October for foreign military intervention was seen by critics as an attempt to prop up a weak and unelected government.
“All power is now in the hands of the interim prime minister, who was appointed under very irregular circumstances and who is very illegitimate among a large part of the Haitian population,” Segura said.
A street vendor looks at a market in Port-au-Prince last week amid concerns about growing food insecurity in the country. Photo: Johnson Sabin/EPA
The outbreak of gang violence that has swept Haiti has caused famine, forced hospitals to close and may have contributed to the resurgence of cholera.
A record 4.7 million people are facing acute hunger with 1.8 million at a critical level of malnutrition, according to the World Food Program (WFP).
In October 2022, the NGO first raised Haiti’s famine alert to level 5, the highest category often reserved for wartime famine.
Henry announced the formation of a council to oversee a transition of power on New Year’s Day, which could allow for new elections, but the initiative is widely regarded by observers as illegitimate.
Some leading opposition politicians have opposed the deal and only three of the five members of the transition council have been appointed.
Opposition figures are not interested in a solution with Henry still in the frame, but Moïse’s successor shows no willingness to step down.
“[Henry and his allies] they say it’s a consensus, but it’s really fake. They will try to have elections and we will go back to square one because it will be contested,” said Louis-Henri Mars, director of the non-profit Haitian peacebuilding organization Lakou Lapè.
At a summit in Mexico City on Tuesday, Joe Biden was expected to lobby Justin Trudeau for Canada to lead an international security force — in part to help stem the flow of Haitian refugees reaching the US.
Activists in Haiti have warned that any foreign force would be the latest in a long history of misguided attempts at foreign intervention in the Caribbean.
But a short-term political solution from within Haiti also seems unlikely.
The 10 senators, whose terms expired on Monday, met irregularly but had no power in practice as parliament was no longer in session.