Haiti's provisional Government Wednesday released a draft of a new Constitution through which the country will try to recover from the political instability left by the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
According to Prime Minister Ariel Henry, a new constitution ... will be a point of departure for other agreements on the future of our country.”
Henry favours general elections to be held as soon as possible, but the opposition would rather have a transition government for two years. Legislative elections should have been held in 2018 but were delayed, while presidential elections are needed to fill a vacancy after the death of Moïse who had pushed in his own time for constitutional reform.
The new charter would strengthen the powers of the President, at the expense of Parliament. It would suppress the office of prime minister and create a vice presidency instead, which would be filled concurrently with the presidential elections in a move to avoid endless debates before policies can be carried out.
Defenders of the new constitution highlight the fact that it eliminates legal immunity for government officials after leaving office so that they can be tried in regular courts instead of having to go first through a Senatorial approval. Immunity is not synonymous with impunity, said Mona Jean, a lawyer who sits on the committee that drafted the new constitution. A government job must not be a source of illicit enrichment.
Henry did not specify how he thinks the new constitution should be voted on. Moïse had proposed a referendum, scheduled for Nov. 7, but the idea proved controversial, with critics saying it violates the current constitution, written in 1987 after the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, which forbids any popular consultation aimed at modifying the constitution through a referendum.”
Since 1805, Haiti has known 23 Constitutions, as all leaders, with a few exceptions, have systematically wanted to cling to power one way or the other, referendums being usually some sort of a farce where a small percentage of the population would vote to validate somebody's personal project.