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Haiti PM to step down

December 13, 2014

After street protests, Haiti's president has announced that the prime minister will step down to resolve a political dispute blocking elections. The Caribbean island is still recovering from an earthquake five years ago.

Michel Martelly
Image: Getty Images/AFP/H. Retamal

After street protests over delayed elections and government corruption, as well as recommendations from a special commission on Friday, Haitian President Michel Martelly (photo) has made his second national address from the presidential palace in three days.

Martelly, a popular singer known as "Sweet Mickey," is a friend and business partner of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.

The president said his prime minister was prepared to make a sacrifice and resign, although he did not say when Lamothe would step down. Lamothe was at the announcement in the audience but did not speak. "He is willing to make that sacrifice," Martelly said, adding that he would meet with government officials on Monday.

"I acknowledge this decision he is making to help find a solution to the crisis. I commend him for his courage and determination to help Haiti," the president said. Lamothe is well regarded internationally, including by major lending banks. He is expected to run for president next year.

The commission's report also called for the release of several "political prisoners" and the resignations of the president of the Supreme Court and the current members of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council. The president appointed the 11-member commission on November 28 to help break a political stalemate that has held up long-delayed legislative and municipal elections.

Martelly's administration blamed opposition senators for rejecting legislation approved in 2013 which would authorize elections. The terms for 10 senators expire in mid-January and parliament would be dissolved - leaving Martelly to rule by decree.

Martelly has come under international pressure to resolve the dispute with the opposition parties.

Haiti is still recovering from an earthquake which leveled much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, five years ago.

The protests on Friday saw several thousand people take to the streets near the presidential palace calling for a new leadership. Some protesters burned tires and clashed with UN troops and police, who also fired tear gas.

There were reports that UN troops fired into the air as police used tear gas to break up the demonstration. The UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, is to investigate allegations its troops used excessive force, according to the Associated Press.

jm/lw (AP, Reuters)