Businessman Jovenel Moise takes office as president of Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Businessman Jovenel Moise became Haiti’s new president on Tuesday, ending a political stalemate that lasted more than a year with his promise to deliver thousands of new jobs.

Moise, a banana exporter who inherits a flagging economy and a bitterly divided population, took the presidential oath in a ceremony in the capital, Port-au-Prince, before going on a tour around the national museum.

Moise was declared the winner in January of an election initially held in 2015 which then had to be rerun more than a year later because of allegations of voter fraud.

He succeeds Michel Martelly, who left office in February 2016 without an elected successor. A transitional government has led the country ever since.

Moise has vowed to create thousands of jobs by providing duty-free preferences for certain light manufactured goods and to stimulate the textile industry, a top employer which accounts for most of Haiti’s national export earnings.

In an interview with Reuters last month, Moise said he believed U.S. President Donald Trump’s business background would give him a better grasp of bilateral relations, cheering the fact that both he and his U.S. counterpart shared an entrepreneurial background.

Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Matthew last October, which killed up to 1,000 people and left 1.4 million in need of humanitarian assistance.

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The country of about 10.6 million people, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, also still bears the scars of a powerful earthquake in 2010 and the number of Haitians trying to enter the United States through Mexico increased sharply over the past year.

Haiti’s opposition has accused Moise of money laundering, allegations he dismisses as baseless and politically motivated. The case is still under investigation, however, and as president Moise will be immune from some criminal proceedings.

Moise’s next task will be to name a prime minister to be approved by parliament, which has proved to be a bruising political battle for some of his predecessors.

Nonetheless, Moise’s Bald Heads Party and its allies will hold the majority in parliament, so analysts expect the nomination to pass relatively easily.

Reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva and Makini Brice; editing by Grant McCool