State and politics
The latest constitution of the Republic of Haiti has been
in effect since June 2012 and is heavily influenced by the
state of the US and France with great power for the
presidency. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of HT and its meanings of Haiti. The president is elected for five years and
cannot be re-elected directly. The President appoints the
Prime Minister, who must be approved by both chambers of
Parliament. The Senate has 30 members and the Chamber of
Deputies has 119 seats. All citizens over the age of 18 have
the right to vote.
Haiti was ruled in 1957–71 by François Duvalier, who in
1964 was elected president for life. In this capacity he was
succeeded by his son Jean-Claude Duvalier, who in 1986 was
forced into exile, carrying a large part of Haiti's foreign
exchange reserve. The Duvalier family's regime was
characterized by severe oppression and economic exhaustion.
The resistance was represented, among other things, by
radical groups within the Catholic Church in Haiti. From
1986 to 1990, the country was ruled by changing military
It was not until 1990 that a constitutional, democratic
presidential election could be held in the presence of UN
observers. By a large majority, the priest Jean-Bertrand
Aristide, representative of the so-called liberation
theology, prevailed. After his supporters won the next
parliamentary election, he took office in 1991 but was
toppled in a coup later that year, leading to a US-led
military intervention in 1994.
Since then, political instability has characterized the
country, with several armed uprisings, coups and short-lived
governments. After several years of political chaos,
elections to Parliament and the presidential post were held
in August and October 2015. Both elections were surrounded
by allegations of electoral fraud and unrest, and the
parliamentary elections required re-election in some
The presidential election was postponed on several
occasions and was not held until November 2016, which may be
partly explained by a politically unstable situation and by
Hurricane Matthew, which hit the country in the fall of 2016
and caused widespread devastation.
Candidate Jovenel Moïse, a party colleague of former
President Michel Martelly, immediately declared the winner
the winner after the election, but without being recognized
by the opposition. Only after the Electoral Court in January
2017 determined the preliminary result, which meant that
Moïse received close to 56 percent of the votes and thus won
already in the first round, Moïse could take office on
February 7, 2017.
See also History.
The legal system in Haiti is traditionally based on
French law, including Code civil. The highest court
is the Cassation Court, under which sort appellate courts
and local courts. The judiciary is considered highly
ineffective due to corruption and public dissolution. The
death penalty was abolished in 1987; the last known
execution took place in 1972.
Several factors cause the former colony and Latin
America's poorest country Haiti today to face major human
rights problems. Centuries of economic, political and social
difficulties as well as several devastating natural
disasters (see History) have left the country with chronic
poverty and widespread corruption.
About four-fifths of the population lives in absolute
poverty and as many as three-fifths of the population are
unemployed or underemployed. The health care deficiencies
are large and a cholera epidemic in the 2010s has reaped
The judiciary in the country is ineffective, and although
the constitution requires an independent judiciary, the
government affects all levels of the judicial system.
Prisoners are often forced to wait a long time for trial and
many accused criminals buy their freedom with bribes.
In Haiti, the media landscape is polarized between
loyalists and critics. The government is showing hostility
towards independent and critical media, leading to
self-censorship. Accusations of slander and the fact that
violence against journalists are not investigated
particularly well by the police reinforce this. In Reporters
Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2015, Haiti ranked
53 out of 180.
Haiti has major problems with violence. Violence also
affects politicians and government officials.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been living in tent
camps since the 2010 earthquake. Children and women are
extremely vulnerable to violence and sexual abuse in both
the camps and the rest of society. Trade in girls and women
The use of children in domestic work is extensive despite
efforts by the authorities to stop this. The majority are
girls from poor families who are sent to live with wealthier
families in the hope that they will have a better life in
exchange for performing easier tasks. These children are
often at risk of being exploited and later left on the
street. The problem with street children is great and has
become greater after the natural disasters that led to an
increasing number of children becoming orphans. The street
children are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and often end
up in the hands of criminal gangs.
Heads of State (in sample)
||Alexandre Sabès Pétion
||T. Simon Sam
||Boniface Alexandre *
||Jocelerme Privert *
* provisional president