Renan Toussaint contributed to this report from in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
WASHINGTON/PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haitian President Jovenel Moise defended his choice for prime minister Wednesday, following complaints that Fritz-William Michel is a virtual unknown who should not have been named.
Opposition lawmakers say Michel has close ties to Deputy Gary Bodeau, president of the Chamber of Deputies, and that he was not chosen by consensus.
"Mr. Michel is a distinguished civil servant who has devoted his entire career to serving the people of Haiti," Moise said, in his first public statement on the matter since announcing his choice. "This is a consensus choice — made with the presidents of both assemblies to end the political paralysis that is harming the citizens of this country."
Haiti has been without a prime minister since Jean Henry Ceant was ousted by a no-confidence vote in March. Moise's first choice to fill the position, Jean Michel Lapin, was never approved by the parliament and resigned Monday. Several attempts to consider Lapin's nomination were blocked by opposition lawmakers who used tactics such as moving furniture out of the chamber, fighting on the parliament floor and not showing up for work.
Speaking for the opposition block in the Chamber of Deputies, Deputy Abel Descolines told VOA Creole that he does not approve of Michel's nomination and that nine of 16 opposition lawmakers do not believe Michel will resolve the socioeconomic and political problems facing the country.
"We should be starting with indictments related to the PetroCaribe affair," Descolines said.
Moise, who has been implicated in the PetroCaribe corruption report, denies wrongdoing. He insists that lawmakers should be working toward resolving the country's problems and that his new cabinet will be inclusive.
"Mr. Michel's cabinet will be representative and inclusive, and will include members of the opposition. We are proposing a government of national unity in order to resolve a national crisis," Moise said.
Government projects have been on hold while lawmakers bicker about the PetroCaribe corruption probe amid calls for a national dialogue. Sky-high inflation, crime and unemployment have sparked massive nationwide protests demanding the president's resignation.
People also complain openly about not having a representative government, not being able to afford basic necessities, and not being able to pay for their children's education. The demands have fallen on deaf ears.
Moise urged lawmakers to move forward with the nomination process.
"The approval of the prime minister's general policy by parliament will unlock the budget and the billions of dollars in international financing that belongs to the Haitian people. There can be no more delay; we must do the work we were all elected to do," the president said.