PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The long wait for Haiti to approve a prime minister ended Tuesday after the Senate voted in favor of Garry Conille to run the government.
The 17-3 vote for Conille to serve as prime minister will enable Haitian President Michel Martelly to install a Cabinet and jump start reconstruction efforts that have been slow to materialize since last year's powerful earthquake. Nine senators abstained in the vote.
Martelly's two earlier nominees for the post were rejected by parliament since he took office in May. The absence of a fully functioning government has prevented the first-time politician from acting on his agenda.
Conille is a doctor and was an aide to Bill Clinton in the former U.S. President's role as U.N. envoy to Haiti. Conille had worked for the U.N. since 1999 in countries such as Haiti, Ethiopia, and, for a few months this summer, in Niger.
The debate to ratify Conille, which lasted about six hours, centered around questions over Conille's residency qualifications, whose job took him out of Haiti for years. Government officials in Haiti are required to have spent five consecutive years in Haiti under the constitution but French and Haitian Creole versions of the document don't specify when the residency period begins.
In the end, a group of senators from a majority coalition agreed Conille was eligible.
"(We're) going to give Haiti a new prime minister," Jean Joel Joseph, a member of the ruling Unity party, said before senate voted.
In his new job, Conille will help lead reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake and will assume responsibilities as co-chair of a recovery panel with his former boss, Clinton.
The panel, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, has drawn heavy criticism for making little visible progress since the disaster.
Conille now will have to present a government plan to both houses of parliament but he can make revisions to it if lawmakers have questions.
Conille could not be reached immediately for comment Tuesday night.