PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti's president said Sunday he has forged a last-minute accord with leaders of four opposition parties after days of closed-door negotiations, possibly creating a viable path to ending a political standoff stalling long-delayed elections.
"Through this agreement, we are sure to achieve normalization of the political situation in the country," Martelly said at a Port-au-Prince hotel following talks with the chiefs of opposition factions, including the Unity party of former President Rene Preval.
Martelly and opposition lawmakers have been embroiled in a political showdown over legislative elections due since 2011, when he was supposed to call a vote for a majority of Senate seats, the entire Chamber of Deputies and local offices.
After days of fruitless negotiations with lawmakers, Martelly on Sunday finally achieved consensus to try and end the impasse. The electoral law must still be approved by lawmakers and an emergency session was scheduled for Monday after the senate failed to achieve quorum Sunday night. The government feels it now has the support needed to win the vote.
Martelly, who took power in May 2011 and is due to leave next year, will rule by decree if political leaders don't resolve Haiti's crisis by authorizing the law by Monday's close.
Senate President Simon Desras told The Associated Press he was hopeful that the political gridlock could be resolved in the next 24 hours. He said he expected participation of at least three but possibly four members of a group of six senators who have used parliamentary procedure to prevent a vote authorizing the elections. They accuse Martelly of trying to undermine the Constitution.
"I'm confident and feeling positive that we can solve this," Desras said before a Monday parliamentary session was scheduled.
In a Sunday statement, the U.S. Embassy said it strongly supported efforts by Martelly to end the impasse, noting his "wide-ranging concessions," including the recent removal of his prime minister.
If lawmakers still don't approve the law and Haiti has one-man rule starting this week, the U.S. said it will continue to work with Martelly and "whatever legitimate Haitian government institutions remain to safeguard the significant gains" achieved since the 2010 quake.
There has been an uptick in street protests orchestrated by opposition factions that have caused a measure of mayhem in downtown Port-au-Prince. On Sunday, mostly young male protesters again burned tires and threw rocks at riot police, who fired tear gas and sprayed water from armored vehicles.
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