This article is a joint publication of TheNation.com and Foreign Policy In Focus.
Five years after the now-infamous Haitian earthquake, the small country faces another crisis.
As Haitians mourn the earthquake that robbed them of their loved ones and livelihoods, they’ll also be treated to yet another meltdown of their government. With President Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly and members of the opposition proving unable to organize parliamentary elections, the political gridlock that has been plaguing Haiti for over three years has turned into a full-fledged crisis as the country’s legislature has dissolved—leaving a de facto dictator in charge.
In the weeks leading up to the dissolution of what had been left of the Haitian government, pundits argued and radio talk-show hosts held lively debates about the crisis. As days kept passing, a concrete resolution wasn’t even on the horizon. Tensions in Port-au-Prince were running high.
No Elections, No Peace
Glittering up above a backdrop of shantytowns and poorly constructed shacks is Petionville, the wealthy suburb of Port-au-Prince. On Bourdon Street, informal merchants sell art to the upper class and brand-new hotels appear to spring up weekly along the quiet suburban streets. Petionville is home to the tiny Haitian elite, and up here Martelly is beloved.
Despite his political shortcomings, posters donning his face and his nickname—Tet Kale, which is a term of endearment conferred to bald men—are still plastered throughout the neighborhood. Men and women sit in front of pro-Martelly murals. It’s no secret: Petionville is solid Martelly territory.
But down below in Port-au-Prince, anti-government protests have been going on for months. Martelly’s failure to organize parliamentary elections has fueled demonstrations calling for his resignation. The impasse was caused by disagreements over the creation of an election council that would be tasked with implementing an electoral law and overseeing the voting. The election in question should have been held in 2011 and filled twenty seats in the Senate, all ninety-nine seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 140 municipal positions.
Even Haitians who tepidly support Martelly still criticize his failure to organize the elections. Jean Maret Josef, an educator in Carrefour, a crowded suburb of Port-au-Prince, makes it clear that he’s not an expert on politics. On a scale of 1 to 10, he offered Martelly a score of 6. “He could have done a lot better. I can’t give him more because he was supposed to hold elections!”