The assassination of President Jovenel Moise of Haiti has put the country in a state of disarray. While security forces gunned down four suspects for the President’s murder and rounded up two others, it is still unclear as to who legitimately heads the Caribbean country in the absence of a President.
Prime Minister Claude Joseph announced that he is "in charge" and put the country in a "state of siege" for 15 days. The promulgation of the ‘state of siege’ reportedly means an imposition of martial law.
But constitutional experts are unsure whether Joseph has the authority to impose the order and whether he can stay in power.
This is because Joseph was scheduled to be succeeded by Ariel Henry this week. Henry had been appointed prime minister by Jovenel Moise only a day before his assassination.
Henry has claimed his right to power and said, “I am a prime minister with a decree that was passed in my favour,” adding that he has been in the process of forming his government. Joseph is no longer Prime Minister, he said.
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According to Lilas Desquiron, a Haitian writer and former minister of culture from 2001 to 2004, the situation is deeply confusing because President Moise has “left behind a prime minister that he had dismissed and another that he had appointed”.
Adding to the crisis is the fact that Haiti does not have a functioning Parliament.
The Haitian Constitution mandates that in the event of the President’s absence, the president of the Supreme Court should take over. But the president of Haiti’s Supreme Court recently died of COVID-19.
In such a case, the National Assembly is expected to elect a leader. But the term of the last legislature has expired and elections are due for later this year. In such a scenario, Haiti seems at the brink of political chaos with no leadership in sight that could hold the country together in this moment of crisis.