Is Haiti a failing state? Or is it, as they say in French, “a la dérive?” The expression more accurately depicts what is happening in Haiti, providing the image of a drifting vessel at the mercy of currents, moving toward an inevitable disaster.
Several factors seem to point in this, drifting, direction.
Haiti has not had a functioning government since the dismissal of Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant in mid-March. His successor, Jean-Michel Lapin—President Jovenel Moïse’s third appointment in two years—has remained as acting prime minister, unable to acquire the support of the parliament. A point of substantive dispute involving how many holdovers from the previous two cabinets would be part of Lapin’s team has also caused some theatrics. This includes fistfights among parliamentarians, and more recently, the Monty Python-like strategy to block a debate to confirm Lapin by throwing furniture from the Senate chamber out into the neighboring yard—it worked. Over the last few days, there were also perplexing rumors that a number of lower chamber deputies would redefine the voting quorum by resigning from parliament (most likely encouraged by a cash incentive) to push through Lapin’s confirmation. Either by bad luck or limited political acumen, Moïse’s selection of prime ministers has only deepened the lack of confidence in his presidency. His initial choice, Jack Guy Lafontant, was inexperienced and ineffectual. While Céant was arguably a better pick; he never seemed to be aligned with Moïse. Even if Lapin is confirmed, he faces a disjointed and unhelpful parliamentary opposition and a potentially explosive mix of pressure points—most notably a growing push to rewrite the country’s constitution, mixed with calls for shortening Moïse’s term, which would certainly be a more constructive alternative to an unconstitutional ousting of the president.