Haiti has cancelled a presidential runoff scheduled for Sunday amid widespread allegations of fraud, a refusal by the main opposition candidate to participate in the ballot, and after protesters attacked electoral offices.
The election in one of the world’s poorest countries is now put on hold indefinitely after Pierre-Louis Opont, head of the Provisional Electoral Council, said he could not guarantee the safety of the poll workers or the country’s 5.8m registered voters.
Violence in the volatile Caribbean country has intensified in recent days, with protesters putting up flaming barricades, smashing car windows, and throwing rocks at security forces in the capital Port-au-Prince.
This came after Jude Célestin, the main opposition candidate, boycotted the run-off election, saying that the first round of balloting was marred by fraud and was tilted to favour the government-backed candidate, Jovenel Moïse.
The Roman Catholic Church and top business leaders have been negotiating with president Michel Martelly to delay the vote amid increasingly violent protests. Mr Martelly took power in May 2011 in a relatively peaceful transition — in contrast to the putsches and coups it has experienced in earlier decades — after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010.
International representatives, such as the US ambassador and the representative of the UN peacekeeping mission, have urged Haiti to complete the electoral process and condemned the violence. The constitution establishes power transfer have to take place by February 7.
The indefinite delay leaves Haiti in a fragile political state even as many, like Mr Célestin, welcomed it as “a victory for all of the democratic sector”.
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