December 14, 2014 / 2:27 PM / 3 years ago

Haiti's prime minister Laurent Lamothe resigns amid protests

Haiti's Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe speaks at a news conference after a meeting with Brazil's Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia May 21, 2013. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, succumbing to domestic and international pressure, announced his resignation on Sunday in a televised address in the middle of the night.

“I am leaving the post of prime minister this evening with a feeling of accomplishment,” he said.

On Saturday President Michel Martelly had accepted the recommendations of a special commission that called for Lamothe’s resignation as part of an effort to resolve a political dispute over long overdue legislative and municipal elections.

Haiti, the poorest and most unequal country in the western hemisphere, is still recovering from an earthquake five years ago that leveled much of the capital, Port-au-Prince. In recent weeks demonstrators in several cities have accused the government of corruption, calling for the resignation of Lamothe and Martelly.

One man was found shot dead on Saturday during a protest near the ruins of the presidential palace.

Lamothe said he was leaving with his head held high, citing the “remarkable work” of the government. “We put this country on a dynamic of deep and real change for the benefit of the population,” he said.

Martelly is expected to nominate a new prime minister on Monday who must then be approved by parliament.

Speculation has focused on three names: Senator and former interior minister Jocelerme Privert, former prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive and current Finance Minister Marie-Carmelle Jean-Marie‎.

Sunday’s resignation marked the end of a close alliance between Martelly and Lamothe, who are friends and business partners. It followed talks in Haiti with a special envoy from the U.S. State Department.

Lamothe is credited with helping manage key infrastructure projects after taking office in May 2012, but fell out of favor over allegations he was overspending to boost his own presidential ambitions.

Critics also accused him of lack of transparency in handling funds from Venezuela’s preferential Petrocaribe fuel program.

Lamothe, 42, was expected to run for president next year, but his forced resignation has dented his chances.

Martelly’s decision to sacrifice Lamothe to appease his critics also may not be enough for more radical opponents who have vowed not to rest until the president is ousted too.

If elections are not held before Jan 12 the parliament will shut down, leaving Martelly to rule by decree. If that happens protests could turn more violent, threatening to destabilize the country in a crucial upcoming election year.

Writing by David Adams; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Stephen Powell

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