By TRENTON DANIEL
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti’s leaders need to quickly confirm President Michel Martelly’s new pick for prime minister and establish a functioning government within the week, former U.S. President Bill Clinton said in a statement Thursday.
Clinton, who is the United Nations’ special envoy to Haiti, said its government has a responsibility to put the population first and set aside political differences and self-interest so donor money will flow again to rebuilding efforts as the Caribbean nation struggles to recover from the 2010 earthquake.
“I believe that the Haitian people deserve better from their leaders,” Clinton said in the statement. “The current political crisis disrupted progress towards a more prosperous Haiti for too long.”
The statement came on the same day that Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies gathered to vote on whether to approve Laurent Lamothe, a foreign affairs minister, as Haiti’s next prime minister. Lawmakers in the 99-member chamber will vote on the final part of a two-step confirmation process, the debate could go late into the night.
Deputy Arnel Belizaire, a Martelly critic who said he and his colleagues wouldn’t vote for Lamothe, criticized Clinton’s statement.
“Clinton can’t tell us what to do,” Belizaire said by telephone. “No authorities of other countries will tell us what to do.”
Even if Lamonthe’s nomination were to be ratified, the prime minister-designate would need to have his Cabinet and policy agenda approved by Parliament, which could take days or even a couple of weeks.
The Martelly government has had a prime minister for only four months since the president, a political newcomer, took office a year ago.
The outgoing prime minister, Garry Conille, announced his resignation two months ago after he clashed with Martelly over the government’s priorities.
The vacancy has stalled reconstruction efforts and the absence of a fully functioning government has discouraged donors from fulfilling billions of dollars in quake-related pledges.
Despite Clinton’s hopes, more vacancies lie in the horizon. The terms of 10 senators, or one-third of that legislative body, expire May 8. But their seats won’t be immediately filled because legislative elections that were supposed to have been held in November weren’t organized in time.