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Cablegate: Preval's Parliamentary Upper-Hand

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPU #0186 0542104
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 232103Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0390
INFO HAITI COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
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RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
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RUEHPU/AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE

UNCLAS PORT AU PRINCE 000186

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL HA PINR AID EAID KDEM
SUBJECT: PREVAL'S PARLIAMENTARY UPPER-HAND

1. (SBU) Summary. Parliament re-established itself quickly
after the earthquake, setting up special commissions and trying to
re-assert its role as a watchdog. Despite calls by opposition
parliamentarians for changes in government, President Preval still
has the upper-hand because of the body's contested legitimacy and
Preval's political clout ahead of eventual elections. Preval could
sideline Parliament after May 2010 and make limited concessions
only as needed. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Within a few days of the earthquake, Parliament
re-established itself on the grounds of the Haitian National Police
Academy and focused on its watchdog role and on debating a strategy
for reconstruction. Several opposition parliamentarians, however,
quickly called for changes in PM Bellerive's cabinet, citing the
government inefficiencies in managing relief efforts, and requested
meetings with Bellerive and several of his key Ministers.
Bellerive responded only once, appearing at a Senate hearing on
February 2. Bellerive told Embassy officials in private he did not
expect Parliament to be cooperative with his government, and that
the GOH could sideline Parliament to concentrate on relief efforts.

3. (SBU) Parliament does not pose a threat to Preval and
Bellerive's ability to govern. Parliament's legitimacy can be
contested. The mandates of the entire Lower Chamber and one third
of the Senate were due to expire in January, but were extended by
the lawmakers until May, a move most observers deemed
unconstitutional. The move further weakened the image of an
institution already considered inefficient by many political actors
and observers, and makes the opposition's relative and fragile
majority in Parliament practically irrelevant.

4. (SBU) Preval still carries significant influence in both
the Lower Chamber and the Senate. Most parliamentarians expect
February's elections to be rescheduled for November or early 2011,
and the same logic that gave Preval a majority in parliament before
the earthquake - the expectation that an alignment with Preval was
a quasi-guarantee for reelection - still applies. Most
importantly, of the 19 Senators whose mandates will be valid beyond
May 2010, 11 or 12 are Preval allies. Senator Joseph Lambert, a
former Senate President and leader of Preval's Inite party, told
PolOff that Preval still held a comfortable majority in the Senate,
despite "the defection of some into the opposition camp." Several
of the voices who now call for a change in government, including
Senators Jean Hector Anacasis and Maxime Roumer, voted to oust
Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis just four months ago, and
approved Bellerive within a week. Both Levaillant Louis-Jeune and
Kely Bastien, respectively Presidents of the Lower Chamber and the
Senate, as well as other parliamentarians, privately have expressed
their support for Preval and his government.

5. (SBU) In addition, Parliament (reduced to 19 Senators
beyond May 2010) will require a quorum of 16 Senators for any vote.
Despite Preval's slim majority in the Senate after May, the
opposition (between five and seven Senators, depending on the mood
of the day) should be able to block a quorum as a means of veto (a
tool that is used often in Haitian parliamentary politics). This
would effectively paralyze Parliament, and would enable Preval and
Bellerive to marginalize the legislative branch. Opposition
Senators Youri Latortue and Evalliere Beauplan both conceded that
the Senate could only function based on consensus between the
opposition and Preval's allies beyond May.

6. (SBU) Comment: Parliament's quick re-establishment
impressed many observers. However, parliament's legitimacy is
contested and remains equally discredited in the minds of the
population, despite a weakened executive branch. In addition,
Preval is still influential in Parliament and the Senate in
particular, and could sideline the institution if it does not
support him. Preval has shown little interest in genuinely
reaching out to opposition parliamentarians thus far, and Post
doubts he will find it in his interest to reach out to a fragmented
and largely unpopular opposition in the remainder of his term.
MERTEN

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