In Haiti, it has too often been the case that what can go wrong does go wrong. That’s why it’s such a relief that Haitian leaders, with a critical assist from the Organization of American States, were able to agree on an 11th-hour deal, just before President Michel Martelly was to leave office Sunday with no successor in place, to avert a power vacuum. It’s also why there remains cause for concern, and the pressing need for international vigilance, as the impoverished Caribbean nation embarks on what is likely to be a volatile interregnum under the auspices of a caretaker government. Under the agreement struck Saturday, on the eve of the expiration of Mr. Martelly’s term, Prime Minister Evans Paul will remain in office until Haiti’s parliament selects a new president. That’s expected to take place in the next few days. Once it does, the accord calls for a new prime minister to be chosen by consensus and for a verification commission to review October’s botched elections. It was those elections that yielded weeks of escalating protests and violence, culminating in the cancellation of a scheduled presidential runoff vote last month.
So far, so good. The problem is how to go forward with a new presidential runoff election, which the deal specifies should take place by April, with so many potential disputes left unresolved.
Already, a handful of the fall’s presidential also-rans — there were 54 candidates — have dismissed the process as illegitimate on the grounds that most members of parliament were elected in the same flawed first-round elections that resulted in the cancellation of the runoff last month. Beyond the immediate selection of the interim president, or of a new prime minister, it is all too easy to imagine bitter disputes arising should the commission reviewing the elections order that the results be revised or scrapped.