Haiti President Michel Martelly issued a presidential order Wednesday officially scheduling the country’s postponed presidential and partial legislative runoffs for Jan. 24. Martelly’s late night order came a day after the head of the Provisional Electoral Council reversed himself on the impossibility of staging the vote in time for Martelly’s Feb. 7 departure from office, and on the day that two top U.S. envoys arrived in Port-au-Prince to address an unraveling political crisis triggered by the Oct. 25 presidential and legislative elections. This [order] makes sense only if Célestin has agreed to participate in the second round. Robert Fatton, Haiti analyst Ambassador Thomas Shannon, counselor of the Department of State, and Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten, spent the first of two days meeting with key political actors including opposition candidate Jude Célestin. They had hope to convince Célestin to participate in the runoff. “This [order] makes sense only if Célestin has agreed to participate in the second round,” said Robert Fatton, a Haiti analyst and political science professor at the University of Virginia.
The former head of the state construction agency, Célestin qualified for the second round with 25 percent of the votes against top finisher, government-backed candidate Jovenel Moïse with 32.8 percent. Alleging that the vote was plagued by vote rigging and ballot stuffing in favor of Moïse, Célestin has denounced the final results and demanded an inquiry into the balloting.
Moïse, a banana exporter, has dismissed the fraud allegations. The voting irregularities that have been uncovered, he said, are the result of poll workers’ incompetence. Still, the allegations have triggered continuous protests and a crisis of confidence.
Previously scheduled for Dec. 27, the runoffs were canceled last month by the elections council until a five-member commission formed to evaluate the presidential vote, could provide a report of its findings and recommendations for an improved second round.