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2021 or 2022? Inside the debate over when Moïse’s term ends

By Onz Chery

Protester holding constitution

A protester kneels in front of a burning barricade with a copy of the Haitian Constitution during a demonstration demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. (AP Photo / Joseph Odelyn)

On Jan. 21, at least 12 activists and Senator Nenel Cassy were arrested during a protest march demanding Jovenel Moïse leave office in three weeks. Moïse allegedly ordered the arrest, according to Sir Ronald Sanders, an Organization of American States diplomat.

The following day, counter-protestors took to the streets chanting, “What they don't want, that's what it will be. Jovenel, five years.” Alleged members of the G9 Family & Allies gang were seen at the march and police officers protected those demonstrators when they clashed with anti-government protesters, according to TripFoumi Enfo.

As February nears, the headlines grow more worrisome. Proponents and opponents of Moïse are both increasingly taking to the streets to protest or counterprotest against demands for the embattled president to leave office on February 7, 2021. Moïse and his supporters have said his term ends Feb. 7, 2022. 

The argument is meaningful because experts fear the date could turn into a severely violent day since residents are divided on whether Moïse’s term should end that day of this year or next year. And tempers are rising along with the number of matches.

“February 7 might be a black day. A lot of people might die around that time,” said Djovany Michel, a political analyst based in Port-au-Prince. “I think international powerhouses should find a way to prevent an uprooting and possible massacres.”

Everyone agrees that it’s clear Haiti’s presidential term is supposed to last five years. The argument stems from when Moïse’s term became official. Some, including Moïse, said it began when he took office in 2017. Others said his term actually started the year he was elected — 2016. 

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Jan. 25, 2021