PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti President Michel Martelly met Wednesday with opposition leaders in a bid to stabilize the politically fractious country as pressure mounted on him to appoint an interim prime minister.
The meetings are Martelly's latest response to the recommendations of an independent commission he established to end a political stalemate over delayed legislative elections. Among the recommendations was that former prime minister Laurent Lamothe should resign, which he did early Sunday following days of violent protests in which at least one person was killed.
"All I have to say is that the meeting went well," Martelly told reporters briefly as he left a hotel in Port-au-Prince where the meeting was held. "We agreed to continue the discussion."
Opposition leaders said they talked about how Martelly could implement the recommendations, which include removing the electoral council and replacing it with new members and releasing several people the opposition considers political prisoners.
"The people in the street are not going to demobilize," said Rosemond Pradel, general secretary of the opposition Fusion party. "(Martelly) must satisfy the recommendations."
Martelly's administration also is drafting a list of candidates for interim prime minister, who could help steer the troubled country through political unrest.
"We need a new government as soon as possible," Senate President Simon Desras told The Associated Press Wednesday in an interview. "I think it's a complex and politically turbulent moment in Haiti."
Desras said that while his name is apparently on the list of candidates for interim prime minister, he doesn't know yet if he would seek the position. However, he added, "I'm always ready to serve." The longtime senator also told the AP it's a possibility he would run for president of Haiti, and that if he does, he would focus on stabilizing the country and prioritize cooperation with opposition leaders.
Lamothe told the AP earlier this week that he has no plans to run for president.
Haiti faces an uncertain political future in upcoming months, with the terms of the current Senate expiring on Jan. 12, exactly five years after a devastating earthquake struck the nation of 10 million people that is still trying to recover.
Desras stressed that the current parliament should remain in place until a new one is appointed, noting that legislative approval is required before a new prime minister can be named.
"We have to do our job in order to pacify the population that is hungry, that is jobless," he said.
Martelly, who is set to leave office in 2016, can sign a decree that will allow Haiti to hold elections in the first half of the year. A presidential election is currently scheduled for later next year.
Haiti also is waiting for long-delayed legislative elections to be held. Martelly's administration was supposed to call elections in 2011 for a majority of Senate seats, the entire Chamber of Deputies and local offices. But both he and Lamothe have blamed legislators for blocking a vote that would lead to approval of an electoral law. Six senators have said the legislation is unconstitutional and favors the government.
Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.