On Tue., Sep. 3, 2019 Gary Bodeau was the man of the day in Parliament, even more so than the supposed star, the new Prime Minister nominee Fritz William Michel.
The manner in which the so-called “vote of confidence” that day was achieved for nominee Michel reminds us of the system of France’s Fourth Republic. It is the Chamber of Deputies which appoints and even dismisses heads of government, at least since the deputy of Delmas, Gary Bodeau, became president of the body. Remember that it was Bodeau who engineered, on behalf of President Jovenel Moïse, the ouster of Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant in March.
While the senators tried without great conviction to save Céant, Bodeau outmaneuvered them and sent Céant packing. Since this spectacular action, Bodeau is considered the strong man of the moment, or at least the man on whom Jovenel Moses is counting to finish his five-year term.
Bodeau’s influence continues to rise. He proved it again with Céant’s successor, his Culture and Communication Minister, Jean-Michel Lapin. Thinking to take back control of the situation after using Bodeau to kick out Céant from the Villa d’Accueil, Jovenel Moïse broke his teeth on this bone by forgetting to involve Bodeau in choosing Lapin to replace Céant. This negligence resulted in the worst political disappointment for the President of the Republic. Never did he succeed in getting Jean-Michel Lapin accepted in Parliament. After two or three humiliations in the Senate, Jovenel Moïse and his appointed prime minister had to throw in the towel.
History will remember that Lapin could never make his General Policy Statement before the two chambers that constitute the Haitian Legislative Body after more than four months spent as interim Prime Minister. This was because Gary Bodeau did not want him to be appointed Prime Minister, deeming Lapin too close to the powerful South-East Senator, Joseph Lambert, and especially he was not Bodeau’s choice.
Although Jovenel had a large majority in the lower house, he was never able to convince Bodeau to accept Lapin. Faced with the evidence of Bodeau’s power, Jovenel Moïse had to ditch Jean-Michel Lapin.
In his place, Jovenel nominated Fritz William Michel, 38, a young unknown functionary who has held several positions in the Haitian civil service, if one believes his biography. According to some, this “youngster” is Bodeau’s personal choice, since it is he who allegedly proposed Michel to President Jovenel Moïse after Lapin’s exit.
To impose this unknown figure on the President, Gary Bodeau has displayed impeccable timing. First, he knows that after two attempts of a Prime Minister nominee to go before the Senate, it would be the turn of the Chamber of Deputies to receive the new nominee first. Secondly, there is the pressing political and social situation of the country; the hurricane season is here, schools are reopening, and the population is facing a catastrophic economic situation.
Finally, there is the pressure from the “international community” (i.e. Washington) on President Jovenel Moïse and the parliamentarians to endow the country with a legitimate government. In short, Bodeau knew that he would likely be able to sell his point of view to his fellow MPs and convince them of the merits of this choice. As a fine political strategist, Bodeau knows how to bring to his position the most recalcitrant deputies of the presidential majority.
To achieve his goal, Bodeau, after Michel’s appointment almost three months ago, dragged his feet, just to make it clear to Jovenel Moïse that it is he and he alone in this tense sociopolitical climate who could facilitate the arrival of a new government. Knowing that the President is a political pariah among politicians and the public, Bodeau, on behalf of his parliamentary colleagues, negotiated the make-up of the ministerial cabinet, post by post, ministry by ministry, with Fritz William Michel and Jovenel Moïse, not to mention, naturally, according to well-placed sources, very large envelopes for the presidential majority.
When some remind Gary Bodeau that there is the opposition, certainly a minority, which is not going to let him get his way, he answers: the opposition, I make my case! In order to put all assets on his side, Bodeau circulated several names of personalities who would be part of Michel’s government. All these maneuvers were decoys, test balloons, to gauge public opinion and attentive observers. Thus, we have seen ministers resign without having had the time to stand in Parliament. At least six ministers left the cabinet after verification of the Chamber’s Special Ratification Committee. Other names circulated without ever really being on the ministerial cabinet list. Even the Court of Accounts has been used to clean up the list, a way for Gary Bodeau to be sure of his coup in the Chamber on D-Day. As for the President, he has not been heard or seen since the appointment of Fritz William Michel.
Jovenel left Gary Bodeau responsible for officially ratifying his third head of government in two and a half years of presidency. Meanwhile, Senate President Carl Murat Cantave struggles to reach an agreement with the majority senators and lets the minority doubt that there may be a ratification session for Fritz William Michel.
But Gary Bodeau continues to run the show in the Chamber of Deputies. Once he was sure of himself, he let the opposition members understand that he was in favor of an impeachment session for the President of the Republic. This was the only way to bring the opposition back to accept the session leading to Fritz William Michel’s General Policy Statement. In fact, it was a trap set for the opposition that has allowed itself to be played. Once the session ended in a sham vote against the impeachment of Jovenel Moïse for high treason, everyone understood that Gary Bodeau was about to win his gamble which was simply to organize a mock ratification session for his boy Michel.
Thus, after cleaning up the appointed Prime Minister’s shadow cabinet, nothing could stop him from organizing a Conference of Committee Chairmen this time, an initiative that is disputed by the opposition. The convocation of the appointed Prime Minister to make his General Policy Statement was set for Sep. 3, 2019. For two days, before the ratification session, Bodeau’s residence was transformed into a second Chamber of Deputies where one saw practically all MPs in favor of a ratification vote for the appointed Prime Minister parade into line with the Deputies’ President. In any case, something important was going to happen in order for all these parliamentarians to go in tight ranks to the residence of Jovenel Moïse’s key man at the moment.
As announced, on Sep. 3, 2019, the small political world was set in movement, the radios of the capital competed in emissions of “guest of the day.” Since there was no suspense for Michel, the most important issue was security on the streets around the Parliament, as the appointment was given for 11 a.m.. But very early in the morning, as in the Senate in the last few months, opposition members took action. Imitating their fellow senators, four deputies of different tendencies completely ransacked the room where the ratification session should take place in the same way as in the Senate: all the furniture and the sound system of the room were totally destroyed by the four deputies opposed to the convocation of Fritz William Michel. They are: Joseph Manès Louis of Cabaret, Jean Robert Bossé of Aquin, Déus Deronneth of Marigot, and Renald Exantus of Estère. With this radical action, the four elected deputies of the opposition, supported of course by their opposition colleagues, wanted to prevent the Prime Minister from presenting his General Policy Statement on Sep. 3.
Immediately, the news went around the media and images around the world through social networks. But Gary Bodeau is not a man to be defeated by such a spectacular and symbolic action by four deputies whose opinions have been known for a long time. Bodeau knows what he wants and is determined to achieve his ends. He ordered that all arrangements be made for the meeting to take place at all costs, even under a tree in the Parliament’s courtyard. He feels the saga of ratifying a new prime minister has lasted long enough. He is not Carl Murat Cantave who has allowed himself to be ridiculed by a handful of minority senators. He, Gary Bodeau, has a mission: to achieve a ratification session of a Prime Minister, especially since, in a few days, his term as President of the lower house will end, and he will have no longer have the power to play the “king maker.”
Bodeau wants his General Policy Statement session and he will have it; if it is necessary even on the rubble of Parliament. So, let’s not talk about broken furniture. Gary Bodeau orders the Secretary General of the Chamber of Deputies that “we work hard to put back the meeting room. It will take a few more hours but the room will be ready.” Indeed, in the late afternoon, miraculously, the room was functional again and ready to receive the famous presentation of general policy. It was 5 pm when the session was able to start in the Chamber of Deputies. It was “an express formula,” to use the term of a member of the presidential majority to explain how Bodeau led the meeting. Indeed, the entire ministerial cabinet entered the hall very confident, in front of the deputies, all of whom had clearly been won over to the cause of Fritz William Michel. It was to the cry of “bon bagay” (“good thing”) that Michel was greeted by some deputies who did not conceal their desire to vote for the Prime Minister even before he had made his General Policy Statement, or at least read a summary of its text in front of the deputies.
Just a word on this “good thing” behavior. Everyone knows that in Haiti when an individual or a group of people calls you a “good thing,” they are usually people who have been served or helped. This name is a mark of recognition vis-à-vis the person. Did the deputies want, by this cry of “good thing,” to reassure Fritz William Michel when entering the room that his wishes would be fulfilled? In any case, that’s how many people perceive this rallying cry. And this came quickly after the usual ceremonies led by Gary Bodeau who controlled the session throughout. After Michel’s express Declaration, the deputies passed to the vote, which was, it must be said, a pure formality.
Michel obtained a virtually unanimous vote of confidence or approval for his summary of the General Policy Statement, with 76 votes in favor, 3 abstentions, and 0 against. At the session’s opening, there were 81 deputies present.
This ratification puts the feet of Fritz William Michel on the threshold of the Prime Ministers office after a first invitation that had been canceled indefinitely in the Chamber of Deputies. In this political game, Bodeau has demonstrated that he is the real boss before the last regular session ending the 50th Parliament. He played his part by leaving to Jovenel Moïse a Prime Minister ratified by an assembly under his presidency as he had deposed the previous head of government at Jovenel’s request. Opposition MPs lost the battle with Gary Bodeau. There remains now the Senate, the most complicated if not the most difficult for Fritz William Michel and his team. We know what opposition senators there are capable of. They are a minority, of course, but much more determined than their deputy counterparts.
In recent weeks, this minority has been officially joined by three other dissidents: Saurel Jacinthe of Grand’Anse, Joseph Lambert of the South East, and Francenet Denius of the Nippes Department, who have fled Jovenel Moïse’s sinking ship. It is on Thu., Sep. 12 that Fritz William Michel is supposed go to the Senate to try to convince the senators that he is a “good thing” (a good PM) for the country. After Senate President Carl Murat Cantave established a special commission to study the documents relating to Michel’s identity, the senatorial opposition is already showing its teeth and shouting scandal. According to them, it will be necessary to have an extended Conference of Presidents in order to define in the agenda the priorities of the moment. Beautiful battles can be expected for this ratification session if it happens. Opposition senators have always been proactive when it comes to blocking a Prime Minister they do not want.
So, on to Parliament Act II. Let’s see if Haiti can ratify a new Prime Minister since the overthrow of Jean Henry Céant last March. It’s been six months already.