Meanwhile, Haiti's Trying to Oust Its Ruler, Too

René Préval extends his own term, as a pop singer and a former First Lady prepare to square off

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Let's check in with Haiti, where the presidential-election process has grown massively complicated. Back in November, Haiti held a vote in which Mirlande Manigat, a constitutional scholar and former First Lady, finished first. It wasn't immediately clear who came in second. The Haitian government, led by President René Préval, insisted that the candidate Jude Célestin was the runner-up, but an international review process found that the election had involved some degree of fraud, and the legitimate second-place winner was actually Michel Martelly, a politically outspoken pop singer who records as Sweet Micky.

Préval's government put up a fight at first, but the U.S. leaned on key political figures to back away from his man Célestin. The Economist reports that the U.S. "suspended the visas of some members of the [Haitian] ruling party, INITE," and The Wall Street Journal notes that America and the international community "strongly suggested Haiti might lose billions of dollars in aid if it didn't go along with the recommendation to drop Mr. Célestin." On January 30, Hillary Clinton flew to Haiti to meet with Préval and all three of Manigat, Célestin, and Martelly. Clinton told this group that the U.S. has "made it very clear we support the OAS recommendations"--the ones that favor Martelly over Célestin, in other words--"and we would like to see those acted on."

Well, all right then! Célestin is out, Martelly is in. On March 20, Martelly will face Manigat in a runoff election. But there's a complication: Préval, whose term was supposed to end this week, has wrangled a three-month extension. He'll now remain in office through May 14. Many Haitians are not happy about this. On Monday, crowds filled the streets of Port-au-Prince, calling for Préval to step down immediately. (The New York Times notes that these are "small protests," though that hasn't stopped journalists from drawing Haiti-Egypt equivalences.)

It's not clear who would be in charge if Préval did leave office this week, since the runoff election is still more than a month away, and the next office in the line of succession--the president of the country's top court--is currently unfilled. A constitutional crisis is the last thing Haiti needs right now, since the country is still struggling to rebuild from last year's devastating earthquake, and lately reeling from a cholera epidemic besides. There are also the unrelated returns of two former presidents, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier and Jean-Bertrand Aristide, each of whom has spent the past several years in exile (in Duvalier's case, the past two decades). "It is not yet clear" how these developments "will impact on the political scene," notes the AFP--but it's hard to see how they will make an already contentious process any smoother.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.