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According to a statement on the Juno 7 news website by interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, the President of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated during the night between the 6th and 7th of July 2021.

The Telegraph, reporting on this story, mentions that Joseph "said he was now in charge of the country".

How can the Prime Minister take over the role of President? Is this in line with the Constitution?

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Up until 2012, Article 149 of the Haitian Constitution used to obligate the National Assembly, convened by the Prime Minister, to invest the President of the Supreme Court of the Republic (or, if unavailable, another senior judge in order of seniority) with the duties of President of the Republic - with new elections to be held between 45 and 90 days later.

However, the constitution was amended in 2012, and now reads:

In case of vacancy of the Presidency of the Republic either by resignation, dismissal, death or in case of physical or mental permanent incapacity duly declared, the Council of Ministers, under the presidency of the Prime Minister, exercises the Executive Power until the election of another President.

In this case, the ballot for the election of the new President of the Republic for the time that remains to complete the mandate takes place sixty (60) days at least and one hundred twenty (120) days at most after the beginning of the vacancy, in accordance with the Constitution and the electoral law.

In the case where the vacancy is produced from the fourth year of the presidential mandate, the National Assembly meets of office within the sixty (60) days which follow the vacancy to elect a new Provisional President of the Republic for the time that remains to complete the mandate.

So, in this case, the Council of Ministers, led by interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph exercises executive power until the office of president is filled.

As President Moïse began his mandate on February 7th, 2017, the last paragraph applies, and the National Assembly (a joint session of the two houses of parliament) will within sixty days elect a new provisional president until the end of Moïse's mandate in February 2022.

However

Two issues complicate the matter - firstly, President Moïse had named Claude Joseph's replacement, Ariel Henry, on July 5th. Although Henry had not been sworn in, the Constitution doesn't mention any such requirement to take office. Henry's supporters argue that this makes him the legitimate Prime Minister.

Secondly, Moïse was elected in the 2015 elections. He would normally have taken office on February 7th, 2016, however, the run-off election was delayed until October 2016 - with an interim President holding office in the meantime. Opponents of Moïse suggest that his mandate should have expired on February 7th, 2021, five years after he should have taken office. The relevant article in the constitution is Article 134-2:

The presidential election takes place on the last Sunday of October of the fifth year of the presidential mandate.

The president elected enters into his functions on 7 February following the date of his election. In the case where the ballot cannot take place before 7 February, the president elected enters into his functions immediately after the validation of the ballot and his mandate is considered to have commenced on 7 February of the year of the election.

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  • There are 2 controversies which complicate the situation. 1) Ariel Henry was appointed as Prime Minister by the President a day before his assassination. 2) Opposition claimed that Moïse's term ended in February 2021.
    – Neith
    Jul 8 at 11:35
  • @Neith definitely - although Henry had been named by Moïse, I think I'm right in saying he hadn't been sworn in yet? I'm not aware of the full story behind the end of term claims - the constitution seems pretty clear that the president's term is five years
    – CDJB
    Jul 8 at 11:43
  • I don’t have any special knowledge on Haitian politics, I just read about it in Wikipedia. The article about the assassination discusses the term limit issue. I guess the opposition may raise it once again now. As for Henry, it says he was not sworn in yet, but doesn’t say whether he will be, and whether he would become Acting President then. I just think these issues should be mentioned in the answer, to make it more complete.
    – Neith
    Jul 8 at 11:57
  • @Neith yeah, you're right. I'll do a bit of reading and update :) thanks
    – CDJB
    Jul 8 at 11:59

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