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article imageJovenel Moise sworn in as Haiti's new president

By Amelie BARON (AFP)     Feb 7, 2017 in Politics

Jovenel Moise was sworn in Tuesday as Haiti's 58th president, ending a protracted electoral crisis that had created a power vacuum in the impoverished, disaster-prone Caribbean nation.

Moise, a 48-year-old banana exporter who has never held political office but ran as the candidate of the center-right Tet Kale Party (PHTK), took the oath at a ceremony at the National Assembly.

He was former president Michel Martelly's hand-picked choice to lead the poorest country in the Americas, one still struggling to recover from devastating natural disasters.

"The Haitian people have spoken: it has chosen to entrust the reins of power to a young, dynamic man" who has ideas "to get the country out of the misery and political instability that has been holding back its growth and development for too long," said National Assembly President Youri Latortue.

Musicians await the arrival of new Haitian President Jovenel Moise at his inauguration ceremony at t...
Musicians await the arrival of new Haitian President Jovenel Moise at his inauguration ceremony at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, on February 7, 2017
HECTOR RETAMAL, AFP

Haiti is fighting to emerge from the world's most significant cholera outbreak, with an estimated 30,000 cases expected this year, as well as the effects of the January 2010 earthquake, with tens of thousands of people still camping in tents without proper sanitation.

The government and aid officials have said Haiti needs nearly $300 million to provide urgent assistance for its most vulnerable inhabitants, including those affected by Hurricane Matthew last October.

The hurricane caused $2.8 billion in damage, and more than 1.5 million people are still in dire need of humanitarian assistance, said El-Mostafa Benlamlih, Representative of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

- Lengthy political crisis -

People gather outside during the inauguration ceremony of the new President  Jovenel Moise on Februa...
People gather outside during the inauguration ceremony of the new President, Jovenel Moise on February 7, 2017 in Port-au-Prince
Pierre Michel Jean, AFP

Moise's election brings to a close a political crisis that began in October 2015 when the results of a first round of voting -- which Moise won -- were annulled because of massive fraud.

In February 2016, with Martelly's five-year term nearing its end and his political succession in limbo, Haiti's parliament elected Jocelerme Privert, president of the Senate at the time, to be interim president.

The presidential election was rescheduled for October and then postponed to November in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

Haiti's political temperature remains high, with several of Moise's main opponents contesting his first-round victory.

The businessman is also at the center of an unresolved money laundering probe. He denies any wrongdoing.

Residents and protesters flee tear gas fired by police during a protest against newly elected Presid...
Residents and protesters flee tear gas fired by police during a protest against newly elected President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, on February 6, 2017, at the eve of his inauguration
HECTOR RETAMAL, AFP

The investigation was launched in 2013 as a routine bank-regulation procedure. The Central Financial Intelligence Unit (UCREF) forwarded a secret report about the inquiry to prosecutors last summer.

However, the investigating judge took no action until four opposition senators recently demanded information about the findings.

The judge delivered the conclusions to the government prosecutor, who has made no public announcements on the case.

Moise was declared the winner with 55 percent of the votes, but with a dismal turnout of just 21 percent.

- Austere inauguration -

President Jocelerme Privert and his wife stand for their last presidential hymn before the Inaugurat...
President Jocelerme Privert and his wife stand for their last presidential hymn before the Inauguration ceremony of the new President of Haiti, Jovenel Moise on February 7, 2017 in Port-au-Prince
Pierre Michel Jean, AFP

After the swearing-in ceremony, the 2,000-plus guests took seats in the courtyard of the presidential palace to attend a religious ceremony and hear Moise speak.

The event took place on the site of the presidential palace, which was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.

Austerity has been the motto of the inauguration ceremony, as Haiti is suffering from an economic crisis with more than $2 billion in debt and anemic growth that is not expected to surpass one percent this year.

According to Moise's transition team, the inaugural costs are close to $1 million, a tighter budget than those of predecessors Rene Preval and Martelly, which cost more than $4 million and $2 million, respectively.

While Martelly -- the sole former Haitian president at the ceremony -- is a well-known entertainment figure, Moise remains largely unknown to the broader public.

Moise said he had invited 53 other former presidential candidates to signal his willingness to ease political tensions.

The inauguration "of a democratically elected president allows Haiti to return to democratic and constitutional rule," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Canada in turn "reaffirmed its friendship and solidarity with Haiti," and "looks forward to working" with the Moise government, the ministry of international development said in a statement.

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