February 24, 2012 / 6:49 PM / 7 years ago

Haiti's prime minister resigns after four months

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille resigned on Friday after just four months in office, plunging the country into political paralysis in the midst of rebuilding efforts two years after a devastating earthquake.

Conille submitted his resignation in a letter to president Michel Martelly, according to a statement by the president’s office. There was no immediate announcement about a possible replacement.

His decision to step down came amid political infighting between the two leaders over a parliamentary commission investigating whether some government ministers hold dual citizenship, which is illegal under Haitian law.

Conille, a 45-year-old medical doctor and U.N. development expert was popular with foreign aid donors and many members of the international community involved in Haiti’s reconstruction efforts after a January 2010 earthquake shattered the country, killing more than 200,000 people.

Conille also previously served as chief of staff of the U.N. Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti, led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Political tensions between Martelly and Conille recently erupted after Conille announced plans to audit $300 million in contracts awarded by his predecessor after the earthquake.

Conille and members of his cabinet were also under pressure to cooperate with a parliamentary commission investigating the nationalities of members of the government.

Conille and some of his aides have held jobs and lived for extended periods outside Haiti.

The resignation could set the stage for a political showdown between Martelly, who took office in February 2010, and lawmakers in parliament, where does he not hold a majority.

Conille’s appointment as prime minister last October came after Martelly’s two previous nominees for the key government post were rejected, slowing his ability to assemble a government to move ahead with reconstruction efforts.

Two years after the quake, more than a half a million people are still living in tent camps in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and piles of concrete, steel and debris litter the streets.

During a recent visit to Haiti, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, publicly called on the country’s political leaders to stop bickering.

“Haiti’s executive and legislative branches,” Rice said, “need to rise above their interests and work together in the spirit of compromise and overcome their common challenges.”

Her words were echoed on Thursday by the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, Mariano Fernandez.

Fernandez issued a statement expressing concern that “the political deadlock and institutional paralysis between the government, parliament and the president ... are not likely to create the necessary conditions for recovery of the economy and the consolidation of democracy.”

Additional reporting by David Adams in Miami; writing by Kevin Gray; editing by Todd Eastham

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