Haiti goes to polls for presidential vote despite boycott

Electoral council says opposition boycott will not stop January presidential election in Haiti

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A man carrying metal bars walks past discoloured electoral posters of presidential candidate Jude Celestin in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 15, 2016

Haiti's runoff presidential election will take place on Jan. 24, even though the opposition candidate insists he will boycott the vote because of his lack of faith in the process, the president of the Caribbean nation's electoral council said on Sunday.

Pierre-Louis Opont said the electoral council was busy preparing the runoff contest between ruling party candidate Jovenel Moise and opposition challenger Jude Celestin, who stated on Thursday that he would not take part.

"I can confirm that as I talk to you today we have two candidates in the race and their names are Jovenel Moise and Jude Celestin," Opont told Reuters in an interview.

"Their names are already on the ballot and the election will take place as scheduled," Opont said. He said the deadline for a candidate to withdraw had already passed.

Foreign donor nations have supported the election despite opposition complaints of fraud in the previous round of voting, in October. Some observers fear a crisis if a new president is not elected by a February deadline.

On Thursday, Celestin vowed to write to the election council to officially register his withdrawal, but as of Sunday evening, Opont said he had not received any such notification.

"The electoral council is obliged to apply the law and the law says how a candidate may withdraw and no one has done so," said Opont.

The last round took place on Oct. 25 with the participation of a record 54 candidates.

Opont defended the quality of the elections and said measures had been taken to fix problems. He put the complaint down to sour grapes by losing candidates.

"The negative comments started to come when a number of people were not satisfied with the direction of the results," he said.

On Jan. 24, voters will also cast ballots to elect legislators to complete the 119-member lower house and to fill a six-member gap in the 30-member senate assembly.

Election authorities promised to take into account recommendations made by an independent committee tasked with evaluating the election process after the last round.

Some analysts fear that Moise could face a serious problem of legitimacy if he wins without an active contest from Celestin, who has refused to campaign.

"I believe the country could be plunged into a political mess should the electoral council move on with the process," said university professor Fritz Dorvillier.

"The decision by the electoral council to proceed with the election is legal, but it is politically incorrect."