PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Claude Joseph, the prime minister who immediately took control of Haiti’s government after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse this month, is stepping down, the nation’s minister for elections said in a text message Monday.
Ever since the president’s assassination on July 7, Haitian politicians have grappled for control of the government. Mr. Joseph had been scheduled to be replaced the week of the killing, but the newly appointed prime minister, Ariel Henry, had yet to be sworn in. Both declared themselves to be the legitimate prime ministers.
The remaining members of the nation’s Senate also said the Senate president should lead the nation, igniting a caustic dispute over who should govern. At least one senator had called Mr. Joseph’s move to run the country and impose a state of siege after the assassination a form of a coup.
The political standoff was made all the more complicated by the fact that many of the nation’s democratic institutions had been hollowed out during Mr. Moïse’s time in office. Only 10 sitting senators remained out of 30 because the terms of the other 20 expired and elections were not held to replace them. The lower house is entirely vacant — their terms expired last year — leaving Mr. Moïse to govern by decree for more than a year before he was killed.
Beyond that, the head of the nation’s highest court died of Covid-19 in June, depriving the country of yet another means of deciding who should govern next.
But on Monday, the minister for elections, Mathias Pierre, said in a text message that Mr. Joseph would step down in “favor of Ariel Henry.”
“I can confirm PM Claude is stepping down,” Mr. Pierre, the minister for the elections, said.
On Sunday night, Dr. Henry released a prerecorded speech, addressing the Haitian people, on social media channels.
He saluted the maturity of the Haitian people in the face of “what could be called a coup d’état” and asked the nation’s political actors to walk along the same path.
He said he would announce shortly who would be part of his cabinet while gathering a “sufficient consensus” to lead an interim government until conditions are met for elections, stopping short of calling it a transition.
“I appeal to the altruism of the Haitian patriots to surpass themselves in order to face together the dangers which threaten us all and jeopardize the very existence of the nation,” he said.
Reaction around the country was swift.
“It’s not their say. It’s our say,” said Velina Chartier, an activist with the anti-corruption group Nou Pa Dormi that lead large protests against the government two years ago. “We are the ones who have to manage and find a way to live together in this country.”