January 23, 2020 / 10:20 PM / a month ago

U.S. calls on Haiti to set a date for elections: Pompeo

(Reuters) - Haiti should set a date for elections, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday, more than a week after Haiti’s president began ruling by decree.

FILE PHOTO: Haiti's President Jovenel Moise speaks during an interview with Reuters at the National Palace of Port-au-Prince, Haiti January 11, 2020. REUTERS/Valerie Baeriswyl/File Photo

Pompeo did not specify which elections he was referring to, but Haiti failed to hold scheduled legislative elections last year.

“We need to have the elections. That is important,” Pompeo said in an interview with the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. “Once those elections will be held, there’ll be a duly elected government. We won’t have to be concerned about ruling by decree.”

The U.S. State Department provided a transcript of Pompeo’s interview with the newspapers.

Pompeo said he voiced concerns about the political situation with his Haitian counterpart in a meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, on Wednesday.

The Haitian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Haitian President Jovenel Moise is three years into a five-year term, which began in 2017 after the results of an initial vote, in October 2015, was scrapped over fraud allegations.

Moise’s support in the country has never been overwhelming. Electoral turnout for the re-run election was low, with Moise receiving only 600,000 votes in a country of 10 million people. Last year, the country was mired in anti-corruption protests for months, with the opposition calling for Moise to step down.

Nevertheless, Moise has outlived his political opposition for now. The mandate of all deputies and most senators expired earlier in January and there were no successors as parliament failed to approve an electoral law last year necessary for holding legislative elections. In this situation, under Haitian law, the president rules directly.

Moise has blamed parliament for failing to approve the electoral law last year, though his opponents have accused him of trying to take advantage of the law.

The last two elected Haitian presidents, Rene Preval and Moise’s political benefactor, Michel Martelly, both ruled by decree at some points.

Moise has said he wanted to overhaul the constitution. Though the precise changes he is seeking are not clear, it would be aimed at strengthening the presidency, which was weakened after the 30-year Duvalier family dictatorship.

Reporting by Makini Brice in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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