Politics of Haiti

Politics of Haiti takes place in a framework of a presidential republic, pluriform multiparty system whereby the President of Haiti is head of state directly elected by popular vote. The Prime Minister acts as head of government, and is appointed by the President from the majority party in the National Assembly. Executive power is exercised by the President and Prime Minister who together constitute the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the National Assembly of Haiti. The government is organized unitarily, thus the central government "delegates" powers to the departments without a constitutional need for consent. The current structure of Haiti's political system was set forth in the Constitution of March 29, 1987.

Political background

Haiti is officially a presidential republic, although it is often claimed to be authoritarian in practice. Suffrage is universal, for adults over 18.The constitution was modeled after those of the United States and of France. It was approved in March 1987, but it was completely suspended from June 1988 to March 1989 and was only fully reinstated in October 1994. On February 29, 2004, a rebellion culminated in a coup against the popularly elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, allegedly with the assistance of the French and United States governments; U.S. and French soldiers were on the ground in Haiti at the time, recently arrived (See controversy). [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4416174/] The first elections since the overthrow were held on February 8, 2006 to elect a new President. Rene Preval was declared to have won with over 50 percent of the vote.Runoff elections for legislative seats were held on April 21.

In 2008, Parliament voted to dismiss President Preval's Prime Minister following severe rioting over food prices. [cite web
title=BBC NEWS Haitian senators vote to fire PM
] His selected replacement for the post was rejected by Parliament, throwing the country into a prolonged period without a government. [cite web
title=BBC NEWS Haiti MPs reject new PM candidate
] Haiti is undergoing a major food crisis as prices for food escalate. [cite web
title=BBC NEWS Haiti facing 'major food crisis'


Political corruption is a common problem in Haiti. The country has consistently ranked as one of the most corrupt nations according to the Corruption Perceptions Index, a measure of perceived political corruption. In 2006, Haiti was ranked as the most corrupt nation out of the 163 that were surveyed for the Index. [cite web |url=http://www.transparency.org/news_room/latest_news/press_releases/2006/en_2006_11_06_cpi_2006 |title=2006 Corruption Perceptions Index reinforces link between poverty and corruption |publisher=Transparency International |date=2006-11-06 |accessdate=2006-11-06 ] The International Red Cross reported that Haiti was 155th out of 159 countries in a similar survey of corrupt countries. [cite web
title= Hoping for change in Haiti’s Cité-Soleil
publisher=International Red Cross

Branches of government

Executive branch

René Préval
14 May 2006
Prime Minister
Michèle Pierre-Louis
5 September 2008

Haiti's executive branch is composed of two parts, the presidency and the government. In this sense, "government" refers specifically to the portion of the executive branch outside of the presidency, and not to Haiti's political system as a whole.


The president is the head of state and elected by popular vote every five years. He is assisted by his cabinet, which must be approved by the National Assembly. Jean-Bertrand Aristide had been in office since February 7, 2001, having received 92% of votes in the elections of 2000. On February 29, 2004, President Aristide reportedly "voluntarily relinquished" the presidency. However, Aristide claims he was pressured to accept the demands of the rebels by the United States and France. Alternatively, President Aristide claims that he was kidnapped.

Following Aristide's departure, Boniface Alexandre became the de-facto interim president. Alexandre, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was in line to succeed the President in case of death or resignation, according to the 1987 Constitution of Haiti. The current president is René Préval, who received 51 percent of the votes in the 2005 elections.:"(see also: 2004 Haiti Rebellion, List of heads of state of Haiti)"


Haiti's government is composed of the Prime Minister, the other Ministers, and the Secretaries of State.

The prime minister, the head of government, is appointed by the president and ratified by the National Assembly. He appoints the Ministers and Secretaries of State and goes before the National Assembly to obtain a vote of confidence for his declaration of general policy. The Prime Minister enforces the laws and, along with the President, is responsible for national defense.

Yvon Neptune was appointed Prime Minister on March 4, 2002, but following the overthrow of the government in February 2004, he was replaced by an interim Prime Minister, Gérard Latortue. The constitutional Prime Minister, Yvon Neptune languished in jail for over a year, accused of complicity in an alleged massacre in Saint-Marc. United Nations officials, expressing scepticism towards the evidence, called for either due process or his release. Having entered custody in June 2004, Neptune was formally charged on September 20 2005, but was never sent to trial. He was finally released on 28 July 2006. The last Prime Minister, Jacques-Edouard Alexis, entered office in 2006 and was removed in April 2008. Michèle Pierre-Louis received approval to become the next Prime Minister from both houses in July.

The ministries of the Haitian government are:P. Schutt-Ainé, "Haiti: A Basic Reference Book", 166]
* Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development
* Ministry of Commerce and Industry
* Ministry of Finance and Economy
* Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cults
* Ministry of Information and Coordination
* Ministry of Interior and National Defense
* Ministry of Justice
* Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sports
* Ministry of Planning and Foreign Aid
* Ministry of Public Health and Population
* Ministry of Public Works, Transportation and Communications
* Ministry of Social Affairs

Legislative branch

The bicameral National Assembly of Haiti (Assemblée Nationale) consists of the Chamber of Deputies (Chambre des Députés) and the Senate (Sénat). The Chamber of Deputies of Haiti has eighty three members, who are elected for four-year terms. The Senate of Haiti consists of twenty seven seats, one third elected every two years. In the popular elections of 2000, twenty six seats were won by Aristide's Lavalas Family Party.

Judicial branch

The legal system is based on the Roman civil law system. Haiti accepts compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. There is a Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation), assisted by local and civil courts at a communal level.

Through its Administration of Justice (AOJ) program, the United States has helped support the independence and competency of Haiti's judicial branch through the training of hundreds of Haitian judges and prosecutors, particularly at the Magisterial Training School established in 1995. The AOJ program ended in July 2000, upon expiration of a bilateral assistance agreement between the United States and the Government of Haiti. During its tenure, the AOJ program also provided free legal assistance for thousands of impoverished Haitians, and has helped obtain the release of hundreds of people detained without trial. U.S. reform programs have included the participation of non-governmental organizations, particularly to encourage conflict resolution and mediation programs that alleviate pressure on the still-overmatched judicial system. In spite of these initiatives, Haiti's judicial system remains severely troubled -- lacking the modern facilities, properly trained officials, and resources it requires to be able to meet the demands placed upon it. The Carrefour Feuilles trial in September 2000 and the Raboteau trial in November 2000 evidenced significant improvements in the judicial system's capacity. Nevertheless, Haiti's system remains in need of continued reform and strengthening.

Administrative divisions

Haiti has ten departments ("départements"): Artibonite, Centre, Grand'Anse, Nippes, Nord, Nord-Est, Nord-Ouest, Ouest, Sud, and Sud-Est. Each department is divided into from three to seven arrondissements, and arrondissements are further divided into communes.

Political parties and elections

International organization participation





External links

* [http://www.usip.org/pubs/usipeace_briefings/2006/0509_haiti_government.html Haiti's New Government Faces Historic Dilemmas] U.S. Institute of Peace Briefing, May 2006
* [http://www.mieeh-immhe.ca/interim_e.asp International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections]

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