Saturday 20 January 2018

Jovenel Moise sworn in as Haiti's new president

Haiti's President Jovenel Moise is sworn in (AP/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Haiti's President Jovenel Moise is sworn in (AP/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Jovenel Moise has been sworn in as Haiti's president for the next five years after a bruising two-year election cycle.

The 48-year-old entrepreneur took the oath of office in a parliament chamber packed with Haitian politicians and foreign dignitaries from countries including the US, Venezuela and France.

He smiled as the Senate leader slipped Haiti's red and blue presidential sash over his left shoulder.

During his inaugural address, Mr Moise gave a rough outline of his government's priorities and pledged to bring "real improvements" to the economically strapped nation, particularly the long-neglected countryside.

He urged unity and promised to strengthen institutions, fight corruption and bring more investments and jobs to one of the least developed nations in the world.

"We can change Haiti if we work together," Mr Moise said to applause on the grounds of what used to be the national palace, which was one of many buildings obliterated during a devastating earthquake that hit outside the capital in January 2010.

There's little expectation among citizens that Mr Moise's new government can overcome Haiti's deep problems of poverty and economic malaise in the next five years, but he does have a majority in Parliament and some are hopeful the businessman-turned-politician will make steady advances.

Robert Fatton, a Haitian-born politics professor at the University of Virginia, described the many challenges facing Mr Moise as "herculean".

He said: "He has to revive domestic production, increase foreign and local investments, rebuild the moribund agricultural sector, create a sense of national solidarity, and generate a sorely lacking political stability," adding that all this will have to be achieved amid diminishing international assistance.

But Mr Fatton suggested that Mr Moise might actually benefit from citizens' low expectations of political leaders following many years of broken promises and failed policies.

"If he manages to deliver a modicum of change he may restore a sense of hope for the future," he said.

The inauguration was the concluding step in Haiti's return to constitutional rule a year after ex-president Michel Martelly left office without an elected successor in place amid waves of opposition protests and a political stalemate suspending elections. A caretaker government was quickly created to fill the void and pave the way for elections.

While Mr Moise won a November 20 election with a dominating 55% of the votes cast, his critics suggest he did not gain a mandate as barely 20% of the electorate went to the polls. The results withstood challenges by three of his closest rivals.

That election victory came more than a year after Mr Moise topped an initial vote in 2015 that was eventually thrown out amid suspicions of fraud.

Senate leader Youri Latortue, who led the swearing-in ceremony and leads a party allied with Mr Moise's Tet Kale faction, told the new president that politicians were "ready to cooperate with you for the benefit of the country".


Press Association

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