Haiti leader tries again with second PM-designate

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.

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