‘We’re back’: Allies of ousted Aristide rejoice as Haiti’s interim president is sworn in

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 February, 2016, 2:27pm
UPDATED : Monday, 15 February, 2016, 2:27pm

A senator who served as interior minister under former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide has been sworn in as Haiti’s interim president , a development met with elation by allies of the leftist leader who days ago were leading street protests.

Haiti cancelled a runoff presidential election in January amid often-violent protests over alleged fraud in the first round and after the opposition candidate boycotted the vote.

Former president Michel Martelly finished his term a week ago with no elected successor as a result. Instead, a deal was struck for the opposition-controlled parliament to choose a provisional president to oversee fresh elections quickly.

Factions of Aristide’s Lavalas movement were heavily represented at Sunday’s ceremony for President Jocelerme Privert, 63, at Haiti’s national palace, which some had not visited since the ex-president was toppled 12 years ago.

“The last time I came to the palace was in 2003 when President Aristide was in power,” said Ores Nixon, a street activist with a Lavalas splinter party who lives in the Bel Air slum in the capital, Port-Au-Prince.

“Now look at me, inside the national palace with a glass of champagne, celebrating the inauguration of our President Jocelerme Privert,” he said.

By contrast, the ceremony and reception on the lawns of the building devastated in the 2010 earthquake were thinly attended by supporters of Martelly, or his party’s candidate.

Aristide remained a potent symbol for the poor until the present crisis, but his influence was seen as fading as the movement he founded splintered into bickering factions and he largely vanished from public life.

As protests against Martelly and the elections gathered steam the factions reunited, however short-lived that may be.

Aristide’s wife was at the ceremony in a rare political appearance, as was the current Lavalas presidential candidate.

“We have shown that we are able to overcome our differences and our infighting in the benefit of the general interest,” Privert said at the swearing-in.

Privert is a member of the Inite political party founded by ex-president Rene Preval, another estranged Aristide acolyte.

After Aristide, a former Jesuit priest, was forced from power by armed rebels in 2004, Privert was thrown into prison for two years on charges he organised a massacre of the president’s opponents. The charges were later dropped.