Senator becomes third to claim power in Haiti after presidents assassination

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With Haiti already reeling in the aftermath of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, a third politician has claimed he is the leader of the country.

Joseph Lambert, who leads what remains of the Haitian Senate, announced Friday evening that he was voted provisional president by his fellow senators, the Miami Herald reported.

But the vote took place among just 10 senators, because of rest of the 30-member chamber’s members left office in January. Since Haiti hasn’t held elections, those representatives were never replaced.

Lambert joined two others claiming to rule the island nation since Moïse was killed in his home early Wednesday.

Claude Joseph, who had resigned as prime minister, took charge of the government and named himself acting president in the hours after the assassination. Ariel Henry, who Moïse had been named prime minister but who had not yet taken office, also claims he should be running the country.

Haiti was already in the midst of a constitutional and political crisis because the 10 senators are the only elected officials left in the national government. All of the lower house, the National Assembly, and all other elected officials saw their terms end in January, but Haiti hasn’t held new elections to replace them.

The US and UN have recognized Joseph, who on Friday asked the U.S. to deploy troops there as he tries to stabilize the country. While the streets are quiet, the fear of violence is widespread.

A senior US administration official told Reuters there were “no plans to provide US military assistance at this time.”

Some Haitian political parties supported the vote to put Lambert in as interim president, which also called for Henry to serve as prime minister. But others say a vote by so few senators carried little weight.

“We are not signatories to this agreement,” said Andre Michel, a leader in the Democratic and Popular Sector opposition coalition, the Herald reported. “The consensus that produced this agreement is too weak to be fruitful.”

“Senator Lambert has no provisional or constitutional power to run Haiti,” said Gary Bodeau, a former president of the Lower Chamber of Parliament, who supports Joseph. “One-third of the Senate cannot replace Moïse.”

Haiti’s constitution calls for the National Assembly to step in if there is a vacancy during the last two years of a president’s five-year term, but that body, for now, doesn’t exist. Legislative elections are scheduled for Sept. 26.

“The assassination … has provoked a political and institutional vacuum at the highest level of state,” said Haitian opposition politician Andre Michel. “There is no constitutional provision for this exceptional situation.”

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