Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haitian President René Préval asks to remain in office

By JACQUELINE CHARLES, The Miami Herald

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Wanting to avoid a power vacuum should presidential elections not be decided before his scheduled Feb. 7 departure date, Haitian President René Préval is asking parliament to allow him to remain in office three months longer — if necessary.

The proposal, which was immediately criticized by opposition leaders in an earthquake-shattered Haiti, was sent to lawmakers in both chambers of Haiti’s parliament Wednesday. With their mandate over as of Monday because of delayed Feb. 28 elections, lawmakers only have a few days to make their decision.

Préval, who has yet to publicly address the matter, points out in his request that while Haiti’s constitution says a president must depart from office on Feb. 7, it also states that a president must serve five years.

Because of delays and controversy in the 2006 presidential elections, Préval did not come into power until May 14, 2006.

Under the proposal, Préval would remain in office until his successor is elected, but no later than May, 14 2011.

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive in a press conference with Canada’s Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon Wednesday said the request “is within the framework of the constitution.”

Not everyone agrees.

Opposition leaders who have been calling for Préval to step down on Feb. 7, but want an interim government to organize presidential elections, accused Préval of going back on his word to leave on his scheduled date.

“Mr. Preval is showing he has a personal agenda and it has nothing to do with the interest of the country,” said Evans Paul, an opposition political party leader.

While political leaders argued over the fate of the country, the country did enjoy some good news Wednesday. The first four of 13 donated portable classrooms from the Broward School District arrived at Terminal Varreux in the capital.

It took workers almost four hours to offload the 22 feet by 36 feet classrooms, which weigh 35,000 pound each.

The portables were first donated to Haiti in 2008 following back-to-back tropical storms and hurricanes but with no one to pay for their transport, they lingered.

President Bill Clinton and his foundation finally stepped up, facilitating the shipment of 13 of the mobile classrooms along with numerous education supplies to Haiti. They include: two truck loads of school furniture donated by Miami-Dade School District to be used in the portables; two truck loads of school supplies donated by Newman Office Supplies that were delivered to the Ministry of Education at the end of March; pencils, notebooks, erasers, crayons, glue sticks, and chalk donated by the New York State United Teachers Union and Staples; and 10 school buses, donated by Miami-Dade School District that have been converted into mobile classrooms.

With some areas of the quake-ravaged capital still experiencing aftershocks, the classrooms’ delivery are timely. On Wednesday as workers at the port were off-loading the classrooms, frightened school children at two schools in a Petionville neighborhood ran out of their classrooms after students in one of the schools reported feeling their building rattle.

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