SITUATION UPDATE BRIEF: HAITI – OPERATING ENVIRONMENT PLAGUED BY PROTRACTED POLITICAL CRISIS

Key takeaways

There are limited signs that the standoff between President Moïse and the opposition will come to an end in the next month. The two sides continue to diverge on the issues of a constitutional referendum and scheduling new elections, both of which are likely to be marred by voting misconduct should they be called in early 2021.

As a result of the protracted and ongoing political crisis, protests over corruption, economic mismanagement and calls for the president to step down will continue, with US interests and government assets highly vulnerable to acts of vandalism. The centre of Port-au-Prince remains the main flashpoint for rallies, characterised by roadblocks, barricades and clashes with security forces.

Common and organised crime will continue to follow an upward trend in the coming months as a result of the economic fallout of Covid-19 and widespread impunity and corruption among police forces. Armed robberies, burglaries and killings remain prominent risks to foreign travellers, while kidnappings will continue to soar as opportunistic criminals seek quick financial gains.

Background

On 22 September, President Jovenel Moïse appointed the nine-member Provisional Electoral Council tasked with preparing a constitutional referendum and organising upcoming elections. The decision came despite the Supreme Court’s refusal to swear in the council over claims it is unconstitutional. Most notably, the new Council fails to have representatives from the Catholic Church, the Protestant Federation and private sector associations among others, as mandated by the constitution. Furthermore, Haiti’s current statute prohibits the use of a referendum to modify the ruling charter, making the new Council’s purported task unconstitutional.

Haiti’s political crisis has been worsening steadily since Moïse started to rule by decree in January, a scenario that unfolded after the country failed to hold elections in 2019 to renew parliament’s mandate. Since then, concerns about the president’s creeping authoritarianism have been growing, also embodied in his willingness to change the constitution to strengthen presidential mandates. Presidential powers had been weakened in the late 80s after the end of the Duvalier period of autocratic rule.

Economic prospects for the country are grim, with inflation rising 26% Y-o-Y in July. Poverty and food insecurity are widespread, with trends being further exacerbated by the fallout from Covid-19. The compound effect of redundancies of Haitians abroad and the closure of overseas factories led to a 20% drop in remittances, which account for more than 30% of the country’s GDP.

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