Haiti has called off its presidential election just two days before it was due to take place over concerns of escalating violence sparked by the opposition candidate’s refusal to take part in a vote he said was riddled with fraud. The Provisional Electoral Council decided to postpone the runoff because there is “too much violence throughout the country,” council president Pierre-Louis Opont said at a news conference. In recent days, a number of election offices across the impoverished nation have been burned and the capital has been rocked by violent opposition protests calling for a halt to the vote. The council did not set a new date for the vote. It also did not say whether an interim government would take power after 7 February, when president Michel Martelly is required to leave office under the Constitution, or if he would remain until a replacement is elected.
Martelly had been expected to address the issue in a speech to the nation on Friday evening, but he cancelled his address as thousands of protesters erected flaming barricades, smashed car windows and hurled rocks at police in Port-au-Prince. Instead an extraordinary council of ministers was convened to discuss public order and security.
Government opponents have insisted that the first round of presidential balloting on 25 October was marred by massive fraud in favour of the president’s hand-picked successor, businessman Jovenel Moise. The runoff was originally supposed to be held on 27 December, and was then rescheduled for Sunday.
Jude Celestin, also a businessman and the other candidate in the runoff, said he would boycott the vote, though his name remained on the ballot.