Haiti goes to poll amid opposition street protests

Haiti goes to poll as outgoing president dismisses opposition demands to postpone election amid street protests

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A National Police officer kicks a burning tire as he clears a barricade during a demonstration against the electoral process in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

The outgoing president of Haiti has ordered police officers to clean up street protests on Thursday and decided to push ahead with plans to elect his successor this weekend.

Haiti President, Michel Martelly, who is constitutionally barred to seek another term in office, rejected the request of the opposition to postpone Sunday’s presidential run-off.  

"We're fully ready," the pop singer-turned-president insisted. "From the point of view of the state, we have a responsibility to organise elections."

Martelly’s decision would reassure international foreign backers like the United States, which said the government had already made “numerous concessions” to opposition demands.

The move could ignite more rage on the streets. The candidate of the opposition will boycott a vote he has branded as “farce” and his supporters are mobilising for protests.

"On the 24th, it's 'No'," opposition candidate Jude Celestin told AFP this week. "I won't take part in this farce, it will be a selection not an election because there will only be one candidate."

Martelly said opposition is spreading rumours of fraud to improve their favourability in the election.

On October 25 in the first round to choose a successor to President Michel Martelly, the candidate he backed -- Jovenel Moise -- drew 32.8 percent of the vote against 25.3 percent for Jude Celestin.

A runoff had been due to go ahead on December 27 but was then postponed after fraud allegations.

Protesters took to the streets on Monday to demand fresh elections to be held after President Michel Martelly leaves office next month, and the creation of an interim government for the time being.

Since the end of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti has been jolted by coups and contested elections that have further undermined the fragile economy.

After being mired for years in a political crisis that kept any elections from being held, Haiti went on an electoral marathon in 2015, holding legislative, municipal and presidential polls.

TRTWorld and agencies