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Since the overthrow of the dictatorship of Jean Claude Duvalier in 1986, Haiti has had a series of governments. Haitian constitutions have been modified to suit individual rulers throughout the nationís history. Local government has traditionally been left to appointed supporters of the regime in power and has often been characterized by violence. The 1987 constitution, currently in effect, was modeled on those of the United States and France.
Under the 1987 constitution, executive power is vested in a president directly elected to a five-year term. The president may not serve two consecutive terms. The president is assisted by a cabinet that is subject to approval by the legislature. The prime minister is selected from the ruling party by the president and serves as head of government.
Haitiís legislature is bicameral. The larger Chamber of Deputies consists of 83 members elected to four-year terms, and the Senate has 27 members elected to six-year terms.
The highest judicial body in Haiti is the Supreme Court. There are also courts of appeal, civil courts, and local courts at the commune level. The president appoints the judges of the Supreme Court and courts of appeal.
Haiti is divided into nine departments that are headed by prefects appointed by the central government. Each department is subdivided into arrondissements and communes. An elected mayor administers each commune.
Health and Welfare
Haitiís medical system struggles to cope with the nationís serious health problems. There is only one physician for every 4,000 inhabitants, and medical facilities are poor. Malaria, dengue, intestinal parasites, yaws, AIDS, and other infectious diseases are common. Foreign governments and several international organizations, including the UN and the OAS, provide food and medicine to Haiti, but the scope of the countryís problems overwhelms these efforts. Haitiís social services are similarly limited.
Under the Francois Duvalier regime, two-thirds of the national budget was spent on the armed forces. However, the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide took steps to eliminate the militaryís participation in political affairs. In 1995 the armed forces were disbanded, although the military officially exists until the government amends the constitution to abolish it. A civilian police force was recruited, largely from ex-military personnel, to replace the armed forces and maintain law and order.
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