Former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe has submitted papers to run for president shortly before the election office's deadline, after repeatedly saying he had no plans to seek Haiti's top political position.
A few hundred supporters of Lamothe, who resigned under pressure late last year amid a political standoff with the last Parliament, chanted and cheered as he arrived by motorcade late Wednesday at an electoral office in the capital. Some supporters of other presidential hopefuls filing their candidacy papers also gathered outside the gates.
"This is about keeping the country moving forward. The progress needs to continue," Lamothe told The Associated Press after he handed in his paperwork about three hours before the deadline.
Asked when he changed his mind about running for president, he shrugged and kept greeting partisans.
Other candidates who have submitted papers to run for president include Jude Celestin, the last election cycle's government-backed candidate, and Maryse Narcisse, the leader of the Fanmi Lavalas party that former two-time President Jean-Bertrand Aristide founded.
Officials said there were roughly 50 candidates who hope to run. A board will review would-be candidates and verify they meet various constitutional requirements, including not holding foreign citizenship.
Last week, New York-born first lady Sophia Martelly's bid to run for a Senate seat was rejected by the electoral council in a move heralded by political analysts as a sign the body was independent.
It's far from clear Lamothe will be cleared to run as the candidate of the Peyizan political group. His critics insist he is not eligible. But Salim Succar, Lamothe's adviser when he was prime minister, asserted a judge gave the former official the necessary "discharge" to run for office again since there is no functioning legislature.
"They cannot hold the dysfunctionality of Parliament against him,'' Succar said.
President Michel Martelly is ruling by decree in the absence of a legislature. He replaced Lamothe with veteran politician Evens Paul after Parliament dissolved in early January amid a political stalemate. Martelly is due to leave office in 2016 after a presidential election scheduled for October.
Martelly was supposed to call elections in 2011 for a majority of Senate seats, the entire Chamber of Deputies and local offices. Those long-delayed elections are now scheduled for August.
Lamothe has said his 31-month tenure was the longest for a Haitian prime minister and asserted the country made significant gains during that time, particularly considering the 2010 earthquake that flattened much of the capital and surrounding areas.
Last year, he told the AP he had no plans to run for president of Haiti.
"I gave everything I had to move this country forward,'' he said at the time.