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Who will succeed Jovenel Moïse? Next in line to assassinated Haiti president died of Covid-19

An unidentified group of assassins attacked the Haiti president's home at around 1 am and fatally shot the head of state
Haiti president Jovenel Moïse was killed at his residence (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Haiti president Jovenel Moïse was killed at his residence (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Haiti's President Jovenel Moise was assassinated at his private residence early Wednesday. His wife, first lady Martine Moise, succumbed to a bullet injury at a hospital shortly after. Now, many are wondering who will succeed Moise amid a tense political climate and a defunct parliament. 

An unidentified group of assassins attacked Moise's home at around 1 am and fatally shot the head of state. First lady Martine, who allegedly caught a bullet in the crossfire, died at a hospital shortly after. Prime Minister Claude Joseph called the assassination a "heinous, inhumane and barbaric act" and called for calm. "The security situation in the country is under the control of the Haitian National Police and the Haitian Armed Forces," he said in a statement. "All measures are being taken to guarantee the continuity of the State and to protect the Nation."


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Who will succeed Jovenel Moise?

In a nutshell, it is unclear who will replace the late president. Speaking to CNN, judge Jean Wilner Morin, president of the National Association of Haitian Judges, said that the line of presidential succession in the country is murky. He explained that Haiti's President of the Supreme Court would normally be next in line, but he recently died of Covid-19. Furthermore, if the acting prime minister was to formally replace the president, it would require parliamentary approval. However, the parliament is effectively defunct without recent elections, Morin said.

Jovenel Moïse, President of Haiti delivers a speech at the United Nations during the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018, in New York City. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

53-year-old Moise, a former banana exporter, was a controversial figure and was embroiled in a longstanding political war with the opposition over the terms of his presidency. His critics were reportedly disputing his right to continue serving in the presidency this year and that he should have stepped down on February 7, 2021, citing a purported constitutional provision that starts the clock once a president is elected, rather than when he assumes office, according to CNN. Many believe this could be a possible motive behind the assassination.

Queen Letizia of Spain (R), and First Lady of Haiti, Martine Moise (L) attend a meeting about the women in Haiti at the 'Mupanah' National Pantenon Museum on May 23, 2018, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

On the other hand, Moise claimed his five-year term should end in 2022 because he wasn't sworn in until February 2017. According to CNN, his inauguration was delayed over voter fraud allegations, which reportedly led to a presidential runoff that had to be twice postponed over threats and "security concerns."

Furthermore, Moise had repeatedly failed to hold elections at regional and national levels throughout his presidency, and this left the country's governing infrastructure mostly empty. According to the report, a constitutional referendum was due to be held last month. However, it was postponed to September, with authorities blaming the Covid-19 health crisis for the delay.

President of the Republic of Haiti H.E. Jovenel Moise speaks onstage during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit - Day 2 at Grand Hyatt New York on September 25, 2018, in New York City. (Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

Spike in violence amid worsening health crisis

Tens of thousands of Haitians have been displaced as rival groups continue to battle with one another or the police for control of the streets. Last week, notorious ex-police officer Jimmy Cherizier vowed to carry out a "revolution" in the city.

Amid the worsening humanitarian crisis, the country has also been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic of late. There are growing concerns regarding the country's response to the health crisis, and whether it will be able to cope with sharply escalating cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Haiti has reported over 19,000 COVID-19 positive cases and 462 deaths, per data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.