Haiti lawmakers approve interim leader's 2nd nominee for PM 

Friday, March 25, 2016

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti's Parliament on Friday approved the interim leader's second nominee for prime minister, taking a critical step toward concluding postponed elections.

The lower house Chamber of Deputies voted in favor of Enex Jean-Charles serving as a transitional government's prime minister early Friday with a 78-1 vote. Two deputies abstained. The Senate unanimously ratified Jean-Charles' policy statement late Thursday.

President Jocelerme Privert chose the U.S.-educated administrative law professor and veteran presidential adviser earlier this week after his first choice, economist Fritz Jean, was rejected by a majority of deputies.

A prime minister is needed to install a new Cabinet and is responsible for running the day-to-day affairs of the government. The authorization of the caretaker government's No. 2 official also means a new Provisional Electoral Council can soon start organizing a twice-postponed presidential and legislative runoff.

"It is with a feeling of a heavy load in an extremely difficult situation that I accepted the post of prime minister," Jean-Charles said after his nomination was first announced.

The swift approval of Jean-Charles followed recent pressure from international partners and the United Nations' special envoy to the country who urged them to establish a fully functioning government and respect a negotiated political accord.

The accord reached in early February by lawmakers and former President Michel Martelly called for a postponed runoff to be held April 24, with a newly elected president installed on May 14. It said a provisional president would be elected for a term of no more than 120 days.

Privert, a former Senate chief, was elected by lawmakers to lead the short-term caretaker government, filling a void left by the end of Martelly's tenure with no elected successor in place. Violent opposition protests and deep public suspicions of electoral fraud favoring Martelly's chosen successor, Jovenel Moise, derailed a scheduled runoff vote last month. It was postponed for the first time in December.

It is not yet clear whether Haitian authorities can indeed organize the runoff by April 24. Lawmakers in the lower house initially failed to reach quorum Thursday to ratify Jean-Charles as some negotiated for a new election date and other demands. It was not immediately known what concessions, if any, were made.

Before senators approved his nomination, Jean-Charles said his government would apply the "technical recommendations" of a special electoral commission that examined the disputed Oct. 25 presidential vote and made various proposals to improve polling and overall transparency. But he made no mention of a deeper verification of votes as some political factions have demanded.

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