Haiti lawmakers elect Jocelerme Privert interim president
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Haitian lawmakers early Sunday elected Jocelerme Privert as the troubled country's interim president to fill a power vacuum following the departure of Michel Martelly, after a vote to choose his successor was postponed over fears of violence.
Privert, 62, a senator and the current president of the National Assembly, was chosen on the second round of balloting after a lengthy session that stretched overnight Saturday to Sunday.
The lawmakers chose Privert over two other candidates, Dejan Belizaire and Edgar Leblanc Fils, both former presidents of Haiti's senate.
Martelly ended his five-year term without a successor on February 7.
Under an agreement signed hours before Martelly's departure, the interim president chosen by parliament will serve for up to 120 days.
The agreement proposes a new presidential election on April 24, with a new president installed on May 14.
A January 24 runoff between Martelly's favored candidate, Jovenel Moise, and opposition flag-bearer Jude Celestin, was canceled following violence and opposition protests alleging that Moise won the first round through dirty tricks and with government support.
The plan to elect an interim president by indirect vote however angered opponents, who have protested the electoral process for months.
Some lawmakers also questioned the legitimacy of Privert's candidacy.
"Stop the parliamentary coup d'etat," lawmaker Gary Bodeau said. "Parliament cannot be judge and jury ... the process is not impartial."
The political turmoil is the latest challenge for the Caribbean country that is the poorest in the Americas.
Thirty years after the end of the Duvalier dictatorship, Haiti is still struggling to hold credible elections that would boost development and raise the standard of living for the 60 percent of the population living below the poverty line.
Also, Haiti is still dealing with the aftermath of the powerful January 2010 earthquake that killed some 160,000 people and caused widespread destruction.