Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe Resigns From Office

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Above: Laurent Lamothe

By Alexander Britell

Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe resigned from office on Saturday night, announcing the move in a televised address.

The announcement came after Lamothe was effectively forced out of office following the recommendation of a commission appointed by Haiti President Michel Martelly and growing anti-government protests in the streets of Haiti’s major cities.

“I leave the position of Prime Minister with a sense of achievement,” Lamothe said. “Vive Haiti.”

The commission had been set up in an attempt to break the country’s long-lasting political deadlock, which had delayed the holding of legislative and municipal elections in the country by more than three years.

Lamothe had come to office in 2011, after two previous appointments to the position by Martelly had been rejected by Haiti’s Parliament.

He quickly developed a role as perhaps the country’s most effective spokesman, cultivating a relationship with foreign donors, politicians and multilaterals.

Lamothe also became perhaps the most social media savvy politician in the Caribbean, with a significant following on Facebook and Twitter and a concerted effort to report his daily activities.

That led Lamothe to become, in many ways, the face of the Haitian government abroad (due in part to his fluency with multiple languages), something that likely led to friction with Martelly and the rest of the government.

Lamothe himself touted the government’s massive education programme, which he said put 84 percent of children in school compared to just 52 percent before he entered office.

But perhaps his biggest ambition was to work to change the image of Haiti; for a multitude of reasons, Haiti had suffered from a massive public-relations problem: it was viewed for decades as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and little else.

And Lamothe, along with Tourism Minister Stephanie Villedrouin, was able to put a dent in that image, in many ways reframing Haiti as a place for possible investment and as an emerging tourist destination.

And for a country where political success is often hard to evaluate, that was a discrete result.

Of course, the work was more than simply cosmetic, led most recently by an increase in foreign investment inflows of 20 percent last year, for a total of just under $186 million.

How those efforts fare under his successor will be one of the biggest questions facing the country.

His record was not without missteps, naturally; a major stated push to improve the ease of doing business, notably by decreasing the number of days to start a business, stalled; too many Cabinet reshuffles, with three under his watch and more crucially, he was unable to overcome Haiti’s crippling political stalemate, something that proved his undoing.

This does not represent the end of Lamothe’s political career, however; he will almost certainly be a major contender for the presidency in 2015.

Martelly has not yet appointed Lamothe’s successor.