February 26, 2016 / 4:18 AM / 4 years ago

Haiti interim president appoints prime minister to help organise election

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haiti’s provisional president has appointed economist Fritz Jean as the new prime minister, the government said on Friday, in a step forward for the impoverished Caribbean nation that is trying to quickly hold a delayed presidential election.

Haiti's interim President Jocelerme Privert speaks during a news conference in the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 19, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

The official government gazette, Le Moniteur, said President Jocelerme Privert had signed an executive order to appoint Jean, a former central bank governor.

Jean’s job will include helping create a balanced election council supported by Haiti’s fractious rival political parties, a key step needed to hold the election set for April.

A runoff election due on Jan. 24 was cancelled amid violent protests, and after the opposition candidate said he would not take part because of widespread fraud in the first round.

Privert is due to hand over to an elected president in May.

Speaking on local radio following his appointment, the 59-year-old Jean urged opposing groups in Haiti to set aside their differences for the good of the nation.

“We are a very polarized country,” he said. “The country is facing serious social and economic difficulties.

“There’s a deficit of dialogue and of communication among different social groups and different actors in the country. You have to sit down with people so that they can know your perception of reality and so that you can know what their perception of reality is,” Jean added.

A technocrat not actively involved with party politics, Jean has support from a wide range of civil society groups.

“I believe the choice of Fritz Jean as prime minister is a good one because Jean is reputed to be a competent economist and an honest man,” said human rights activist, Pierre Esperance.

Still, some opposition lawmakers see Jean as an ally of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, arguing that he will work for the benefit of Aristide’s Lavalas Family party.

Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Cynthia Osterman

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