HAITI- A new constitution, which came into effect on Tuesday, gives the four million citizens living abroad the right to own land and run for office.
The amendments to the constitution were approved last year; however, Haitian President Michel Martelly prevented them from taking effect because of unspecified errors.
Martelly made the announcement shortly before departing Haiti for Brazil where he will represent his country at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20).
“All Haitians are Haitians,” he said in a press conference yesterday on the grounds of the presidential palace at the announcement of the new constitution.
The international Haitian community is behind the new constitution, but many citizens who remain in Haiti have been resistant to it. Those against argue that the process in amending the constitution was flawed, and suggest there may be discrepancies between the constitution approved last year and that which came into effect yesterday.
Many have focused on the rights granted to citizens abroad overlooking the other, more technical, amendments. The new constitution includes the creation of the Permanent Electoral Council (CEP) to conduct future elections. Yet, experts suggest that the CEP is unworkable as there are currently not enough Senators to form the majority required by this amendment.
That said, the new constitution also paves the way for Senate elections that would give Martelly a chance to bolster his small bloc of supporters in the legislature. In December, the Haitian President fired the nine members of a provisional electoral council by decree
Nonetheless, the new constitution remains popular, at least with the Haitian community outside of the country.
Marleine Bastien is a leader of the Haitian community in the US. She was quoted by the AP news agency stating she was pleasantly surprised by the decision. “I think it was overdue,” said the founder of Haitian Women of Miami. “It shows that he understands the great positive impact that the diaspora can play in the future of Haiti.”