In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew’s destructive pass through Haiti, which left at least 10 people dead, hundreds of thousands displaced and a death toll certain to climb, elections officials on Wednesday postponed Sunday’s rerun presidential and legislative elections for the second time this year. The delay was expected by many Haitians after Tuesday’s battering from Matthew, a monster Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 145 mph that made landfall along the country’s southern coast bringing 15 to 20 inches of rain and triggering fears of a cholera outbreak. But elections observers, and some candidates, criticized the Haitian government for failing to set a new date for the election. The country’s Provisional Electoral Council, or CEP, announced the postponement on the day that Haitian National Police and a United Nations logistics team were scheduled to begin moving ballots and other sensitive materials to voting centers.
CEP President Leopold Berlanger said those affected by Matthew had to come first. “We stand in solidarity with them and we will not leave them behind in the electoral process,” he said. “The country is obligated to make the victims a priority.”
In January, Haiti postponed a scheduled second round of elections amid protests after opposition front-runner Jude Célestin declared he would not campaign until government officials addressed fraud allegations from the contested first round on Oct. 25.
Célestin called the postponement “a wise decision” on Wednesday: “Getting assistance to the population is more important than elections right now. It’s difficult to go ask people to go vote, given what we’re dealing with right now. But elections are important. I hope that the CEP announces a new date as soon as possible so that regardless of the conditions, there is a new president who takes office in Haiti on Feb. 7.”