Haiti presidential candidate won't participate in election

Haiti’s opposition presidential candidate Jude Celestin announced he will not participate in Jan. 24 presidential election

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Jude Celestin, the LAPEH party presidential candidate, speaks during an interview at his office in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Jan. 16, 2016

Haiti's opposition presidential candidate Jude Celestin said Monday he will not participate in a planned run-off, calling it a farce with only one candidate.

The January 24 election is the latest attempt to restore stability in one of the poorest and most unstable countries in the Americas.

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.

The second round vote on Sunday pits Celestin against government-backed rival Jovenel Moise who came out ahead in first-round polling in October.

Sunday's polling "is a no-go" Celestin told AFP during the interview.

"I will not go to this farce. It will not be an election. It will be a selection because there is only one candidate," he said, referring to Moise, who is supported by President Michel Martelly.

Yet Celestin has not officially withdrawn his candidacy with the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), the body in charge of Haiti's elections.

"I still have time before the elections to withdraw if I have to," Celestin said. "But, I am sure that, whether I withdraw or not, the elections cannot take place with one sole candidate."

"It takes two to tango and this election is a one-way affair," he said.

Celestin has contested the first-round polling in which he drew 25.3 percent of the vote against Moise's 32.8 percent, an outcome he called a "ridiculous farce."

An independent electoral commission concluded in a report that the voting was marred by fraud and irregularities. It said 60 percent of poll workers could not do their jobs properly.

Despite this, Haiti's CEP decide to go ahead with the elections -- which include both the second-round presidential and partial legislative polling.

They did, however, postpone them from December 27 to Sunday, to give the independent commission more time to evaluate the process.

In protest, Celestin has refused to participate in the campaigning process.

'There will not be elections'

On Monday, opposition protesters blocked streets using barricades made of burning tires and set two vehicles on fire, demanding a transitional government be put in place to organise new elections.

"On January 24, there will not be elections. We will have our machetes and stones in hand. We say to everyone: Close your doors and stay inside because we will not be participating in elections," cautioned protester Betty Milou.

But Celestin is advocating peace and he rejects the idea of a transitional government.

"In any democracy, there's an elected president who replaces an elected president. We are clear on that point," he said.

He also denounced what he called "interference by the international community," which largely financed the vote.

"These are election for a certain part of the international community, elections for the government to assure the dictatorial succession," he said.

The opposition candidate said he had been approached by foreign diplomats but was "under the impression that they had nothing to do with what the population actually thought."

Meanwhile Celestin's rival Moise campaigned on Monday, calling for citizens to vote.

Only 26 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in October in Haiti, the Americas' poorest country.

"We need the passion and competence of all of our citizens, regardless of their origin and political affiliation, to develop Haiti," Moise said.

"For me, it's an essential criteria to take into account in the formation of a new government."