PORT-AU-PRINCE, (Reuters) – Haitian President Michel Martelly chose a lawyer and former justice minister on Wednesday to be the country’s next prime minister, making a second attempt to fill the key government post.
Lawmakers in Haiti’s parliament last month rejected his initial choice, dealing a sharp political blow to the new Haitian leader and slowing his ability to assemble a government to move ahead with reconstruction efforts after a catastrophic earthquake killed 300,000 people last year.
There were indications the new nominee might not fare any better due to charges he once led a crackdown on political supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Martelly, speaking with reporters before departing on a trip to Spain, said he chose Bernard Gousse, who served in an interim government that came to power in 2004 when Aristide was driven from office.
“Haitians, I am traveling but I am leaving a new prime minister-designate in your hands,” he said.
Martelly, a popular musician with no prior government experience, took office in May after a sweeping election victory. But Inite, the party of former President Rene Preval, and its allies dominate both houses of Parliament.
Jean Tholbert Alexis, a lower chamber majority leader, said Gousse would not win backing from lawmakers.
“The choice of Bernard Grousse … is unacceptable,” he said.
Several other lawmakers said they would not support the nomination, claiming Gousse was responsible for the arrests of high-profile Aristide supporters after the ex-president was forced to flee the country during an armed rebellion.
“There are several senators and members of the lower chamber that have been the direct victims of Gousse’s arbitrary arrests and detention,” said Senator Evaliere Beauplan.
“How can you ask them to vote for him?” she added.
Aristide, who still commands a fanatical following among Haiti’s poor, returned home from exile earlier this year.
Gousse, who has not been formally involved in politics in recent years, must present his credentials to Parliament, which has the constitutional authority to approve or reject candidates for prime minister.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is also reeling from a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 5,500 people.