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Haiti’s parliament rejects presidential adviser’s PM bid

Jonathan M. Katz

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Parliament last Thursday rejected the nomination of one of President René Prévals advisers as the next prime minister of Haiti, which has now gone two months with its No. 2 political post empty.

The Chamber of Deputies voted 57-26, with six abstentions, against Robert Manuel’s nomination, arguing he does not own property in Haiti and is not registered to vote.

Both are basic qualifications to be prime minister of this impoverished Caribbean nation.

Manuel, a former security chief and close friend of Préval, is the second nominee the lower house has rejected this year. Préval’s first choice, banker Ericq Pierre, was voted down last month on a technicality related to his citizenship papers.

The Senate ousted Prime Minister Jacques-Édouard Alexis on April 12 following days of riots against soaring food prices.

Manuel’s nomination was blocked by the powerful Progressive Parliamentarians Conference, or CPP, a cross-party voting bloc that includes 52 of the chambers’ 99 members.

The group met with Préval last Wednesday to discuss the nomination but was not persuaded to support the 55-year-old Manuel, said legislator and group spokesman Levaillant Louis-Jeune.

“The CPP is not blocking the country. We just want to do things another way and make sure the constitution is respected,” Louis-Jeune told The Associated Press.

Several non-members of the voting bloc also voted to keep Manuel out of the post, which oversees the government and chooses Cabinet ministers. The prime minister is appointed by the president, who is in contrast directly elected, and must be approved by parliament.

Without a prime minister, the country is unable to negotiate for aid with foreign countries or implement many programs to address soaring food prices or rampant kidnappings in a country where 80 percent of people live on less than $2 a day.

Regarded as a tough law enforcement officer, Manuel served as national security undersecretary during Préval’s first term in the late 1990’s.

He resigned and fled the country in October 1999, charging that supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide were trying to destabilize elections. His rumored successor was assassinated the next day.

Manuel returned following Aristide’s ouster in a 2004 rebellion. In recent weeks, supporters spray-painted the slogan “Bob Manuel Security” on walls across Port-au-Prince. But some opponents said he had orchestrated violent crackdowns against supporters of Aristide.

(Associated Press)