Matiado Vilme in Port-au-Prince contributed to this report
WASHINGTON/PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - Haiti's President Jovenel Moise has survived an impeachment vote in parliament, ending a weekslong push by opposition parties to unseat him over corruption and other criminal allegations.
In a marathon session that began late Wednesday and ended in the early hours of Thursday, the president survived when 53 of the 61 lawmakers present voted the impeachment mesure down. Three deputies who were present voted for impeachment, and five others abstained. The remaining 58 lawmakers out of the 119-member body were not present, however the vote proceeded according to the country’s parliamentary system.
The president has not yet publicly commented on the decision.
Opposition deputies have accused Moise of numerous constitutional violations. Among them — naming unqualified citizens to cabinet positions and signing contracts with foreign companies not approved by the government institution that oversees such matters.
The opposition's insistence on prioritizing the impeachment vote before dealing with any other matters before the chamber held up a vote on the nominated prime minister, Fritz William Michel. Haiti has been without a prime minister since March, when Jean Henry Ceant was forced to resign after a no confidence vote.
VOA Creole spoke to Deputy Gary Bodeau, president of the Chamber of Deputies, shortly after the marathon session ended.
"I'm not thrilled, because this is not how I wanted the debate to proceed," Bodeau said. "There are arguments I read in the impeachment indictment that seemed to have merit. Unfortunately, the deputies did not remain in the chamber to debate the accusation, and that's why the session ended. It's very unfortunate."
Majority PHTK Party deputy, Moise Michel, told VOA he was satisfied with the outcome.
"This is the only democracy where the minority group tries to lay down the law. In all other democracies (of the world), it's the majority party that does that. Whether or not they agree, the debate happened. We respected their constitutional right to ask for an impeachment vote, and you saw how they tried to block and obstruct the vote so it wouldn't happen," Michel told VOA.
Ahead of the impeachment vote, protesters had camped out in front of the parliament building holding signs that read, "Haiti is Not for Sale, Lock Up the Thieves." Protesters also told VOA they wanted Bodeau to "watch it. We're not playing." Protesters said they would be waiting until the early hours of the morning if necessary to see how they would vote.
"Everything must happen where the people can see (with transparency)," a female protester told VOA, "because we the people voted them in."
Bodeau told VOA he was considering opening up a dialogue with members of the opposition as early as Thursday. He said the next order of business would be examining the prime minister nominee's dossier.