A Constitutional Crisis in Haiti: Two People Claim To Be The Prime Minister

The law has run out.


Over the past four years, the phrase constitutional crisis was routinely overused. The situation in Haiti, however, is a true constitutional crisis. At present, two people are claiming to be the Prime Minister. And the governing law of Haiti does not provide a clear way to resolve this dispute.

The New York Times sketches this intractable situation.

As a threshold matter, it isn't even clear which law applies. There are two constitutions that provide different paths to replace the President. According to the 1987 Constitution, "if the presidency is vacant for any reason, the country's most senior judge should step in." However, "the head of the nation's highest court died of Covid-19 in June." It isn't clear if the senior associate judge could step into the seat of the presiding judge. In 2012, the Constitution was amended. Under this new document, the President would be "replaced by a council of ministers, under the guidance of the prime minister." But that provision does not apply "if the president was in the fourth year of office." And the assassinated President was in his fourth year of office. If the president was in his fourth year, then "Parliament would vote for a provisional president." But there is no functional parliament! "The lower house is entirely vacant — their terms expired last year — leaving [former President] Mr. Moise to govern by decree for about a year."

Under Haitian law, the president appoints the prime minister, and he must be approved by the parliament. Now, two people are claiming to be the prime minister. Two days before the President was assassinated, he appointed a new prime minister. But he was never confirmed by the parliament. There is another person, who claims to be the "interim" prime minister who is exercising power. (It isn't clear what gave him the authority to claim that title.) And the interim prime minister has placed the country under martial law.

Currently, the United States has chosen to recognize the interim prime minister as the leader of the government. That fact may be the clearest resolution of who will maintain control.

As best as I can tell, all of the law has run out.

Need I remind everyone that under a prominent theory of the Constitution, our presidential succession act is unconstitutional. Both the Secretary of State and the Speaker could lay claim to the Presidency. This theory threatens to throw the republic into chaos. And it is wrong.

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  1. They could agree to govern on alternate days.

  2. It could be coming to America soon enough as well.

    As Arizona becomes more clear, and it looks like there is convincing evidence, that the so-called “Big Lie(TM)” is actually just a Big Coverup of the democrats stuffing ballots boxes in about six major cities you really have to wonder what is going to happen.

    As Pennsylvania and other states now uncover similar suspected fraud, it is going to call into question the legitimacy of Biden in the eyes of probably half the states. And it is not like he is suddenly going to stop being President when that happens.

    Congress will either have to impeach Biden and remove him from office or America will have to lump an illegitimate President for another 3 years. (Or if he has any honor he would resign once and if fraud is unearthed). Assuming Biden stubbornly rides out the rest of his term (or Kamala does as it is pretty clear Biden probably does not have three years left in him) it will be interesting to see if the country tolerates having a King With No Clothes.

    1. The circus in Arizona is nothing but theater. They are not following any reasonable procedure to ensure accuracy and company hired is a Trump partisan group. None of the “results” will have any legitimate meaning.

      1. Conspiracy nuts like Jimmy have been saying for months there’s a smoking gun indication of election conspiracy dropping any minute. It’s been one bizarre, poorly thought out Bircher-ite theory after another, all fizzling out. It’s pretty pathetic that they’ve latched on to yet another one with so much ardent faith. But, that’s a person’s brain on Trump…

        1. Yeah I’m clearly the crazy one…So says that fool that thinks, without any evidence, that:
          -Global warming is real.
          -America is some kind of white supremacist state.
          -Some tourists taking pictures were trying to overthrow the government.

          You know why the communists called people like you a ‘useful idiot’ right? You are a mark that has been conned. Stop drinking the kool-aid and come out of the echo chamber.

          1. Just some tourists taking pictures!! In pelosi’s trashed office??

            1. Who do you think took the picture of the guy with his feet up on Pelosi’s desk? Obviously it was a tourist.

              1. Not to defend them, bit trashing an office seems a bit more like the non-peaceful resistance of both the Boston Tea Party, and the philosophical defenses of the burning and looting all last summer, than a serious threat to continued governance.

                For thise with itchy trigger fingers who want to single it out as a weally weally sewious incident, may I direct you to Haiti to see what real coup attempts look like? Or a dozen Middle Eastern countries a few years ago involved in hopeful but ultimately fruitless attempts to become free in the Arab Spring?

                1. And just to be clear, there were plenty of people on the left, including me, who didn’t buy the “philosophical defenses of the burning and looting all last summer” and believe the people involved in that should be prosecuted and sent to prison as well. (And it is my understanding that to the extent prosecutors have been successful in identifying people involved in the burning and looting, they are.) Two wrongs rarely if ever make a right.

                  1. “Two wrongs don’t make a right”

                    Sure, I’ll agree with that. But it does set up a political norm. You can’t say one form of violence is justified and then try to conflate and inflate one isolated incident on the other side for political purposes. Or you can, but it makes you look like a disingenuous hypocrite.

                    1. Jimmy, did you read what I wrote? I just said that I, and many on the left, disagree that the BLM violence was justified. Why are you inferring that someone is saying that the BLM violence was justified? I mean, I suppose if you look long enough and hard enough you’ll find someone who’ll say anything, but that’s not mainstream liberals.

                      And even if the left were saying that, that’s not a justification for January 6. Just because someone else behaved badly does not excuse the January 6 bad behavior.

                  2. I didn’t defend the arson, looting, and worse over the summer either. But because I also said the protesters were not the same as the rioters, I’ve been deemed a collaborator.

                    They’ve calmed down a lot on that since Jan 06, but still keep the fires going a bit.

                    1. Sarc – you were wholly complacent with the violence of last summer, down to almost dismissing it as a non-issue. Even one time you said it was no big deal that police had fireworks being shot off at them because they wore body armor. Let’s at least be honest here and no engage in historical revisionism. You largely agreed with the political mission of the rioters and violence so you were fine with a hands off approach. And it is that behavior that further encouraged that to continue all summer long, and even to this day.

                  3. Your statement does not match reality. All those “progressive” DA’s dismissed most charges, referred others to clearly fluff pre-trial deferment programs, and downgraded what ought to have been felony charges in the more serious cases that actually got prosecuted.

                    The “not all of us” defense rings pretty hollow when you look at the actual facts out there and the major representatives in the government, media, and law enforcement community who do the speaking for the political side. You don’t get to use it as a general “pass” while on the other side pretending that the few bad actors on January 6th were somehow representative of the entire right.

            2. Estragon clearly has never encountered tourists…

              Back when lobster traps were made of wood and had to be weathered in the sun, my uncle had to literally chain down his traps to prevent the tourists from stealing them. They would literally stop on the highway, run across his lawn, and grab one — and this happened enough times for most of the pile to disappear…

          2. Global warming is real; Jimmy I’m not so sure about.

          3. I love how Jimmy rebuts the claim he’s a conspiracy nut by citing more conspiracy nuttiness he believes in.

      2. Molly,
        I have no idea what is happening in AZ or PA, but tell me, “Why should I believe you?”

        1. I’m not Molly, but *Republican* Arizona election officials have for weeks been saying what Molly said. And it’s been pretty thoroughly reported that the group doing the audit is a Trump group.

          1. What is a “Trump group”?
            Did he found it?
            Is he a member?

            It strikes me as a confusing statement, considering one of the groups involved – the one that discovered that some files had been deleted off the servers by the Arizona SoS after the servers were subpoenaed – was also the same group that the Obama administration chose to use to audit the OPM, discovering the major security breach by China in the process.

            1. You obviously missed the news story in which Maricopa County election chief Steven Richer, a Republican, told the media that not only had the files not been deleted, but he was looking at them on his own computer during the interview. I don’t recall if he actually called Trump a liar or not, but he came closer.

              1. Sorry, you are flat out wrong.

                Files were deleted off the servers, after the servers had been subpoenaed. This is a plain fact. Anyone that claims otherwise is lying. Equally, someone claiming that having them on a different computer is proof that they were not deleted of the election servers is also lying.

                The defense is that the files were not part of the election vote tallies. This is may be true. But that does not mean that the SoS’s office was not modifying files on the server after they were told not to do so.

              2. Incidentally, you still didn’t answer:

                What is a “Trump group”?

    2. Any day now jimmy! Keep the faith alive

    1. P.S. Full disclosure, that story is a month old now, and a lot has happened since: https://www.rnz.co.nz/tags/Samoa

      (But, as far as I can tell, there are still two people claiming to be Prime Minister.)

  3. Hmm, maybe the marshals would enforce martial law.

  4. I think that because Congress is charged with enacting the operative legislation, it gets discretion in determining what an “Officer” means, and courts cannot substitute their own definition, so long as Congress’ interpretation is reasonable. It is at least superficially plausable that the Speaker of the House is an officer of the United States under an “ordinary reasonable person” understanding without taking into account what an officer meant in 1789 or at common law.

    I think this is enough for courts to steer clear of the matter.

    If the Supreme Court overturned the congressionally designated successor based on some sort of long-winded technical legal expositon of “officer,” it would be hard to distinguish such a move from, say, a military coup. The justices would appear to be installing their personally preferred candidate, and any technical mumbo-jumbo about the meaning of “officer” would appear to be just legalese-ish sounding window dressing.

    1. Thank you. The time to run it through courts is now, not while a constitutional crisis is in progress.

      If you are going to do that at all.

      I called out similar fraud behavior in the discussion of whether the ERA is now approved or not, when the government said no and a court said we aren’t touching that. Some wanted a court to rule yes with specious reasoning that plucked all the good apples along a tortuous historical path, and leave all the wormy ones alone.

      But you can’t do that. Amendment approval is supposed to be obvious to all, so it has confidence. Approval by government of its own modification isn’t even really a part of it because it is so obvious, and it is The States and The People telling the Federal Government its form. That doesn’t exist inside court rooms.

      Legal trickery means failure and a coup attempt.

  5. Our Constitution still has flaws which could use some work. Of course my biggest one is not having a separate head of government chosen by the legislature and a head of state who has no real power other than to nominate judges and whose electors are chosen by state legislators rather than voters.

    Succession issues could easily be corrected. Abolish the vice presidency for one. Allow governors to choose the president of the Senate who only breaks ties and would replace the president if removed from office or upon his/her death. But remember, POTUS is only the head of state whose primary function is nominating judges and state functions (national awards, meeting other heads of state, etc).

    This would help to depoliticized the entire judiciary and the judicial selection and approval process when the POTUS is no longer a political entity. It would also reduce the power of the executive as they are directly accountable to the legislature and no longer held in high regard just by virtue of holding the office. The new head of government would be succeeded by whomever the legislature designates.

    But hey, it’s much better vilifying each other during presidential elections over a pair of candidates who tend to be well spoken puppets or idiots who really get votes to block the other puppet or idiot more than anything else.

  6. “…Two men say they’re Jesus, one of them must be wrong…”

    1. Depending on your view of The Holy Trinity, that could be a complex answer…..

      1. Any good Cajun chef knows that the Holy Trinity is tomatoes, onions and green bell peppers.

        1. Sorry, celery, onions and green bell peppers. I’m still waking up.

          1. I has a sad both formulae involve green bell peppers.

            I’m partial to the carrots, celery, onion base for chicken soup.

  7. What does the army think? That is what matters.

  8. A famous person once referred to some countries as shit holes. Sounds like this may be one.

    1. What’s really sad is that if not for the people running it (including gangs), Haiti could have a lot going for it. It has stunning beauty and could have a thriving tourist industry. I’ve always wanted to take the bus from Port au Prince to Santo Domingo but it’s just too dangerous. It has agriculture. It has natural resources. The only reason it’s a shithole is because of the people, not the country itself. Sartre was right: Hell is other people.

  9. Why not make Haiti a US State? If you are open-minded, I discuss this possibility here: https://priorprobability.com/2021/07/13/helping-haiti/

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