Haitian President Michel Martelly gave a farewell speech and departed his office with no successor yet chosen. A constitutional crisis was narrowly avoided after a last-ditch agreement.
Michel Martelly took office in May 2011 and is departing on what was scheduled to be the first day of Port-au-Prince's annual three-day Carnival celebration. Authorities, however, called off the Sunday festivities, which begin the Mardi Gras season, due to tensions fuelled by political uncertaintyy. A runoff election had been cancelled last month after violent protests triggered by suspicions about vote rigging.
With quarrelling political factions throwing Haiti into a constitutional crisis, a last-minute deal was forged between a departing Martelly and Haitian lawmakers less than 24 hours before his scheduled departure from office. The deal states that an interim government will rule until an elected leader can take office on May 14. The twice-postponed presidential and legislative runoff is rescheduled for April 24.
A runoff between Martelly's favored candidate, Jovenel Moise, and opposition candidate Jude Celestin, was called off following allegations that foul play had helped the government candidate take the first round of elections in August 2015. Martelly's government has denied any wrongdoing in the case.
Interim government to be arranged
A short-term interim government will now be put together to iron out political divisions. Haitian Prime Minister Evans Paul remains in office for the time being until a provisional president is chosen by Parliament in the coming days.
Senate President Jocelerme Privert said that Parliament would accept nominations for a provisional president over the next five days.
Some opposition lawmakers disagreed with the accord reached by Martelly and legislators, but Privert stressed that they would have to accept the majority decision.
The United States and the United Nations said that they welcomed the last-minute agreement on a transitional government, with the UN saying that is hoped the deal would "ensure the democrativ transfer of power to elected officials."
Exacerbating the causes of poverty ahead of Carnival
The electoral crisis has highlighted Haiti's long struggle on the road to democracy since the Duvalier dictatorship ended 30 years ago. The political instability has also been further increasing inflation, which affects most people in the country, as 60 percent of Haitians live under the poverty line. Carnival - or Mardi Gras - is regarded as one of the few annual occasions which bring people together across Haiti despite their differences and divisions.
Martelly himself rose to fame as a singer known for Carnival performances. He has released a new song with sexually suggestive lyrics. Some speculate that he will return to Carnival floats to perform again now his presidency has ended.
ss/bw (AP, AFP, Reuters)