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Haitian Senate Reschedules PM’s Confirmation Hearing

FILE - Prime Minister-designate Jack Guy Lafontant listens to a speech by President Jovenel Moise at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 24, 2017.

Haiti’s Senate has announced a confirmation hearing for the country’s prime minister-designate on Wednesday.

The hearing comes two days after Jack Guy Lafontant and his newly appointed Cabinet were left in limbo when several senators walked off the floor of parliament in an apparent demand for power sharing.

Senate leader Youri Latortue announced the rescheduled hearing on Tuesday.

Lafontant, a member of the ruling Bald Heads Party (PHTK), needed 16 of 30 Senate votes to be confirmed. Nineteen senators had shown up at the parliament building Monday, but the hearing was delayed repeatedly. Then four senators departed – including at least one from Lafontant’s own party – leaving the Senate without a quorum.

Meanwhile, Lafontant and his 18 Cabinet members, announced Sunday, reportedly had boarded a bus outside the national palace, anticipating the five-minute ride to the parliament building for confirmation. They were not summoned.

The lack of a functioning government is another setback for Haiti, which grappled with almost two years of political turmoil over the country’s presidency until Jovenel Moïse was sworn in February 7. The country of more than 10 million is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, still recovering from a devastating earthquake in 2010, a deadly hurricane last October and a continuing cholera epidemic.

Moïse, a banana exporter, previously had not held public office – nor has his pick for prime minister. Lafontant is a physician.

The pair should negotiate with the disgruntled senators, who are seeking more power – possibly cabinet posts, said two senators who did not participate in the walkout. Approving a prime minister in Haiti typically involves a lot of bargaining.

Herve Fourcand rejected the charge that his PHTK party was responsible for failing to ratify the new government.

Antonio Cheramy, a member of the opposition party Verite (French for Truth), told Haitian media that the prime minister-designate had not paid taxes for several years prior to his nomination.

Gédéon Jean, a political analyst in Port-au-Prince, raised another possibility: that Lafontant was not the person Moise ultimately intended to have as his governing partner.

“I’m wondering if they are not throwing him under the bus,” Jean said of Lafontant. “Is he the real choice of the president? I don’t know.”

VOA Creole Service stringer Renan Toussaint contributed to this report.

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