PORT-AU-PRINCE —Lawmakers have approved President Michel Martelly’s choice for a new prime minister, ending a two-month impasse that hampered the country’s efforts to rebuild after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
The Chamber of Deputies voted 62-3 with two abstentions shortly before midnight May 3 to confirm Laurent Lamothe, who will serve as the head of government and lead the earthquake reconstruction efforts.
Lamothe was a special adviser to Martelly before being named foreign affairs minister and has been co-chairman of an economic advisory panel along with former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Lamothe’s approval ended a stalemate created by the sudden resignation of Garry Conille. His departure impeded Martelly’s ability to govern and caused unease among donor governments and organizations that have pledged billions of dollars to the impoverished nation.
In a brief interview with The Associated Press minutes after the vote, Lamothe, 39, said he would tackle the country’s extreme poverty, rebuild public buildings that collapsed from the earthquake, restore the population’s confidence in the government and relocate the more than 400,000 people displaced by the quake who remain in makeshift settlements.
“We have a lot of work to do now,” Lamothe said by telephone. “I feel that the country finally has the opportunity to work on the people’s problems. We have a lot of different issues to deal with and finally we have the team in place to start solving the people’s problems.”
Before the legislative debate began on Lamothe, the country’s leaders came under pressure from Clinton, who is the United Nations special envoy to Haiti, who urged them to confirm Lamothe and establish a fully functioning government within the week.
Martelly, a first-time politician, has spent a year in office but he’s had a prime minister for only four months, hobbling his ability to govern. Infighting between Martelly and his
critics in the opposition-controlled Parliament, and even in his administration, has become routine. Conille resigned in February because he clashed with the president.
“I believe that the Haitian people deserve better from their leaders,” Clinton said before the vote on Lamothe. He said officials must set aside their differences and self-interests to “restore confidence in the Haitian institutions so that donor funds can flow again and attract new investment.”
Countries around the world and multilateral organizations pledged about $4.5 billion after the earthquake but only a little more than half of that money has been released, according to the U.N. Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti. The hold-up has been largely attributed to a wait-and-see approach by donors.
Even with the confirmation, it could be weeks before Parliament approves Lamothe’s government plan and Cabinet. It was expected that he would keep many of the same ministers.
Lamothe is a relative newcomer to Haiti’s rough-and-tumble politics. He received college and graduate degrees in south Florida and ran a telecommunications company before he entered public office.