The last 10 remaining senators in the Haitian parliament have officially left office, leaving the country without a single democratically elected government representative.
The expiration of the officials’ terms at midnight Monday officially ended their term – and with it, the last semblance of democratic order in the beleaguered Caribbean nation.
Haiti – which is currently plagued by gang violence and the worst malnutrition crisis in decades – now officially no longer has a functioning parliament, with senators the last of 30 to remain in office after successive failed attempts to organize elections.
There is no more constitutional representation at any state level, the latest sign that the country has become a failed state.
“The constitution, which we have referred to until now as the framework for political transition, is essentially just a letter, as none of the institutional architectures it describes are currently in place,” Renata said. Segura, deputy director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Crisis Group, a peacebuilding think tank.
Haiti is in the throes of a series of acute, overlapping crises as gangs violently exploit a power vacuum to extend their control over the capital.
All democratic institutions, from the Haitian judiciary to parliament, no longer function.
All local authority terms expired in 2020 and when the Supreme Court last met in February 2022, only five of the 12 judges were still in office.
The collapse of Haitian democracy and its institutions has made it impossible to confront warring factions, which now control about two-thirds of Port-au-Prince.
Home to 12 million people, Haiti has not held a timely legislative election since October 2019 and was thrown into further uncertainty when its president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in July 2021 by Colombian mercenaries. under circumstances that remain unclear.
All local and national political terms have now expired, while questions hang over the constitutional legitimacy of the caretaker government which has set no date for the next round of elections.
Moïse had controversially extended his own term before he was assassinated and the succession of Ariel Henry – previously prime minister – was never ratified in law.
Henry is considered illegitimate by most Haitians, and his October call for foreign military intervention was seen by critics as an effort to shore up a weak, unelected government.
“All power is currently in the hands of the interim prime minister, who was appointed under very irregular circumstances and who is very illegitimate among a large part of the Haitian population,” Segura said.
The explosion of gang violence engulfing Haiti has caused famine, forced hospitals to close and likely contributed to the re-emergence of cholera.
According to the World Food Program (WFP), a record 4.7 million people face acute hunger, including 1.8 million with critical levels of malnutrition.
In October 2022, the NGO raised its Haiti hunger alert to Level 5 for the first time, the highest category often reserved for wartime starvation.
Henry announced the formation of a council to oversee a transition of power on New Year’s Day, which could allow new elections, but the move is widely seen by observers as illegitimate.
Several prominent opposition politicians rejected the deal and only three of the five members of the transitional council were appointed.
Opposition figures are not interested in a solution with Henry still in the frame, but Moses’ successor shows no willingness to leave office.
“[Henry and his allies] say it’s a consensus, but that’s really not true. They are going to try to have elections and we are going to go back to square one because it is going to be contested,” said Louis-Henri Mars, director of the Haitian peacebuilding association Lakou Lapè.
At a summit in Mexico City on Tuesday, Joe Biden was expected to press Justin Trudeau for Canada to lead an international security force — in part to help stem the flow of Haitian refugees reaching the United States.
Activists in Haiti have warned that any foreign force would be the latest in a long history of ill-calculated attempts at foreign intervention in the Caribbean.
But a short-term political solution from inside Haiti also seems unlikely.
The 10 senators whose term expired on Monday met irregularly but had no power in practice because parliament was no longer meeting.