Lawmakers chose the Senate chief on Sunday to lead a caretaker government that will fill the void left by the end of President Michel Martelly’s term last week and perhaps ease tensions that suspended elections and pushed deeply polarized Haiti into political crisis. In the early hours of Sunday, Jocelerme Privert was elected as provisional president and sworn in after a plodding session by Haiti’s bicameral legislature. He was formally installed in the afternoon before a crowd of Haitian officials and foreign diplomats. The veteran politician was one of three candidates vying to lead an interim government that is supposed to last only 120 days. His new position will be that of a powerbroker who hopefully carries enough weight to quickly smooth political divisions that have left Haiti without a president chosen by voters or a completed Parliament due to the suspended elections. Prime Minister Evans Paul remains in office for now, but Privert and lawmakers are expected to choose a No. 2 official in coming days.
During a speech to lawmakers hours before their final vote, Privert promised that if selected he would lead a caretaker administration that would “foster confidence within all sectors of society,” ensure stability and see that the electoral cycle is concluded “as soon as possible.” He submitted his resignation letter from the Senate to start his new post.
An initial vote by legislators gave Privert just two votes more than Edgard Leblanc, a former Senate president who was being backed by Martelly’s political faction. But after closed-door negotiations, Privert became interim president after 3 a.m. in a second round of voting that gave him a clear majority of hand-written votes from senators and lower house deputies.