History of the Government of Haiti
The history of the island nation of Haiti has been marked by colonization, slavery, and political turmoil. First colonized by the Spanish and later by the French, the residents of the island began to revolt, claiming their rights to French citizenship and as free men. This led to a revolution that eventually resulted in independence in 1804. The next 212 years were full of instability and violence. The General who led the revolution assumed power as Emperor and established the first Constitution. In 1806, a successful coup d’etat separated the country into a northern authoritarian state and a southern republic. In 1843, the island was separated into Haiti and the Dominican Republic. At that time, Haiti came under parliamentary rule until 1849 when the Second Emperor took control until 1859. In 1859, a military regime reestablished the nation as a republic until 1911. From 1911 to 1915, Haiti entered a period of extreme political turmoil during which it had 6 presidents, each killed or forcefully removed from office. From 1915 until 1935, the US occupied the island to carry out reform and ensure debt repayment to US banks. This takeover resulted in a democratic government for Haiti, briefly. The following decades, were marked by elected Presidents and dictatorships. In 1986, the military overthrew the last dictator, took power, and wrote a new Constitution in order to reestablish democracy. Largely unsuccessful, the country remained under full military rule from 1991 to 1994. Between 1996 and 2004, the country experienced two elected presidents. In 2004, another military coup d’etat disrupted democracy. Violence continued through 2006, and a prior President once again took control until 2011. In 2011, the public democratically elected another President, Michel Martelly, who stepped down in February of 2016 without a replacement. An interim President was appointed.
Contemporary Government of Haiti
Today, the government of Haiti is a semi-presidential republic system. This system means that a President serves as Head of State and a Prime Minister serves as Head of Government. The public elect the President to office and the President then appoints the Prime Minister based on the political party in control of the National Assembly. The President and the Prime Minister hold executive power together. The National Assembly is divided into two chambers and hold legislative power. Under this system, the central government assigns powers and responsibilities to administrative divisions. The government is divided into three branches, the executive, legislative, and judicial.
The executive branch of the government is made up of the President and the Cabinet. The President serves for a 5-year term and may not serve consecutively. As mentioned, the President appoints the Prime Minister who goes on to appoint the Cabinet Ministers. The Prime Minister ensures that the Cabinet carries out the law as defined by the National Assembly. Together, the Prime Minister and the President are responsible for matters of national defense.
The legislative duties of the government are carried out by the National Assembly, which is divided into the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. The public elects the 99 members of the Chamber to serve 4-year terms. Additionally, members of the Senate are elected to serve 6-year terms. These elections take place every 2 years, to replace or re-elect one-third of the members.
The judicial branch of the government is in charge of interpreting and enforcing the law. It consists of four levels, the Magistrates’ Courts, Court of Appeals, Civil Court, and the Court of Cassation (the Supreme Court). The President appoints judges to serve 10-year terms on the Supreme Court bench. Courts further appoint prosecutors to try military and civilian cases. The legal system of Haiti is based on the system of French civil law.