Stone-throwing protesters took to the streets of Haiti’s capital on Monday to demand the suspension of a Jan. 24 presidential election over alleged irregularities, while in provincial areas unknown attackers burned several electoral offices. Haiti is due to hold a run-off vote backed by international donors on Sunday, but tensions have risen since opposition candidate Jude Celestin said last week he would withdraw, on grounds that electoral authorities favored the ruling party. Swiss-trained engineer Celestin, 53, came second in an October first round in the poor Caribbean nation, beaten by banana exporter Jovenel Moise, 47, the ruling party candidate.
Accompanied by a man playing trumpet, the several thousand-strong crowd grew angrier as it moved from poor neighborhoods into downtown Port-au-Prince. Some protesters burned vehicles, threw rocks and attacked a petrol-pump.
“If I have to take up weapons I will do that. I have done it in the past,” said slum resident Jaques Madiou, 40, who said he had taken up arms after former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a leftist ex-priest, was forced from power in 2004.
Elections and transfers of power in Haiti have long been plagued by instability, and international observers said October’s vote was relatively smooth. However, several of the 54 candidates alleged fraud in favor of Moise.