Early Wednesday morning on July 7th, the President of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in his home. This has created panic and unrest throughout the country as interim prime minister Claude Joseph lacks legitimacy or control of the government. The New York Times reports “A new prime minister had been scheduled to replace Mr. Joseph this week — he would have been the sixth to hold the job in Mr. Moïse’s term. The head of the nation’s highest court, who might have helped establish order, died of Covid-19 in June.” This situation has created uncertainty within the country. Reuters reports that this legitimacy problem will affect who the armed forces and national police are loyal to, which only further shows the dire need to resolve this confusion.
Joseph has spoken out after this attack saying the country needs “all the forces of the nation to accompany us in this battle, in the continuity of the state because democracy and the republic must win.” He is trying to keep the country united to avoid a breakdown of democracy. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports, “‘We are in total confusion,’ said Jacky Lumarque, rector of Quisqueya University, a large private university in Port-au-Prince. ‘We have two prime ministers. We can’t say which is more legitimate than the other.’”
Haiti already faced problems with political legitimacy within their government with Mr. Moïse, so this horrible assassination only worsens the democratic standing of the country. As there is a lack of a natural next leader to step into power, members of the parliament, the supreme court, and other important government officials must rally around one specific interim prime minister. Currently, Claude Joseph and Ariel Henry are fighting to claim their rightful place as the leader of the country during these trying times. Claude Joseph was the acting prime minister at the time of the assassination but Ariel Henry was the newly appointed prime minister who was supposed to assume the role in a week. Both of their claims to power have created a serious political crisis. To best serve the nation, one of these men needs to support the other one until the government stabilizes enough for a transition of power.
Before his assassination, there were protests for Mr. Moïse to step down from the Presidency. Reuters reports that “Since he took office in 2017, Moise had faced mass protests against his rule – first over corruption allegations and his management of the economy, then over his increasing grip on power.” Also, Moïse technically won his first election in 2015, which sparked debate as counting his win from that election would mean his presidential term should have ended in February 2021. But, Moïse argued that because he actually assumed power in 2017 his term should have ended in 2022.
CFR reports that this debate over his presidential term “Moïse saw this as “an ‘attempted coup’ and ordered the arrest of twenty-three people, including a Supreme Court judge and a police inspector general.” Not only did Haiti’s late President face controversies with corruption, but the country faces a myriad of other struggles. For example, Haiti is still recovering from the 2010 earthquake, COVID-19 has strained their crumbling public health system, and there is a lot of violence plaguing the country. Therefore, this assassination only adds further turbulence into an already struggling country.
President Moïse’s assassination has allowed for political uncertainties from the past to become full-fledged legitimacy problems with the entire country’s peace and well-being potentially hanging in the balance. While Moïse was accused of having dictatorial tendencies with people calling for his removal from office, the country now faces an inescapable power struggle between two prime ministers. The entire country has been left confused as to who is currently running the government. Hopefully, one interim prime minister can claim leadership without resulting in unnecessary violence or distress for the rest of the country, following the appalling assassination of the sitting President.