Carnival in Haiti this month was one of the few things Haitians could be certain about and celebrate.
Much less certain is whether the country’s ruling elite can reach a consensus about how to rebuild the earthquake-shattered country amid growing donor fatigue.
“Unless the nation’s leaders pursue a national governability accord to organise long-delayed elections, halt unconstitutional appointments and address basic needs, Haiti could become a permanent failed state,” Mark Schneider, vice president of the International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels-based think tank, wrote in a recent column in the Miami Herald.
Haitian President Michel Martelly has proposed a so-called “Five-E” plan - employment, état de droit (rule of law), education, environment and energy - to lift Haiti from decades of political turmoil and the devastation caused by the massive earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010.
However, since coming to power 20 months ago, Martelly’s presidency has been marred by conflicts with an opposition-dominated parliament and disagreements over his choice of prime minister that threaten the already slow reconstruction efforts.
One key area of conflict among Haitian lawmakers centres around the country’s electoral body - how to form it and its composition - an issue that has ratcheted up political uncertainty. It has meant local and municipal elections, which should have taken place last year, have been delayed indefinitely. The elections would aim to fill 10 seats in Haiti’s 30-member Senate and hundreds of seats in local government, such as mayors and councillors.
“Haiti is very fragile. It still desperately needs stability and security," Javier Ciurlizza, head of ICG’s Latin America and Caribbean programme told AlertNet by phone in Bogota.
“Martelly needs to convince his own people and donors that progress and stability are achievable. Without a national consensus, Martelly unfortunately faces the specter of a failed presidency, and Haiti risks international abandonment.”
It was never going to be easy for Martelly, a former pop star known as Sweet Micky, with no previous government experience to build a national consensus and to wield over a polarised parliament made up of numerous factions - long a feature of Haitian politics.
“While he has shown exceptional ability to connect with Haitians, both rich and poor, in Haiti and abroad, he has not sufficiently used that capacity to address factors that could reduce political tensions and build national consensus,” says the latest ICG report on Haiti.
The urgent need to build political consensus was echoed recently by Mariano Fernandez, former head of the 10,600-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
“The most difficult challenge remains that Haitians reach a political agreement to have a much more stable democracy,” Fernandez told reporters earlier this month in Port-au-Prince at the end of his term in Haiti.