He’s been accused of rigging the election of his successor, but Elisabeth Preval, wife of the outgoing Haitian president, says her husband’s not to blame for the country’s political mess.
As Haiti prepares to mark the first anniversary of the earthquake that leveled the impoverished Caribbean nation, President Rene Preval has the difficult job in his final weeks of presiding both over a natural disaster and electoral turmoil.
His wife told AFP that despite this he will be remembered positively.
“It’s not Preval who created the poverty and misery in Haiti. To the contrary, he worked for five years to create stability,” she said in an interview.
“Political stability is an important achievement that he left the country,” she said. “And this should be protected so that economic growth and social development get a longterm chance.”
Not all Haitians would agree.
The country, reeling from years of poverty, the deadly 2010 earthquake and a cholera outbreak, now finds itself in yet another round of political turmoil as candidates from a November presidential election bicker about who should go to a second round.
Supporters of the candidate that placed third believe Preval’s handpicked candidate, Jude Celestin, cheated in order to come second, clinching a spot in the run-off vote.
The third place candidate, popular singer Michel Martelly, singled out Preval for rigging the vote and demonstrators set fire to the ruling INITE party’s headquarters in December.
As yet, no decision has been taken on when to stage the run-off round — originally set for January 16 — and, as a result, Haiti finds itself in political chaos just when it needs leadership.
The first lady, who married Preval only a few months before the earthquake, says her husband can’t be blamed.
“Thanks to his political acumen, he has steered around the problems in the country, and brought together opposing groups for dialogue,” she said.
“Haiti was going in the right direction (before the quake). In December 2009, the key indicators showed positive economic growth, political stability, an easing of social conditions and growing investor confidence,” Elisabeth Preval said.
President Preval is due to step down February 7. He says he could stay in power as long as there is no clear successor.
“I am very anxious because the stability of Haiti is in danger if hte electoral crisis is not calmly resolved,” Elisabeth Preval said.
However, she insisted that her husband had no desire to hang on.
“The president and I have finished. There is only a little time left in his mandate. I can assure you that President Preval is determined to leave as soon as the new president and new parliament take office.”
“His role,” she added, “is to protect stability.”