Haiti’s Senate on Wednesday called on the country’s Provisional Electoral Council to cease all operations for Sunday’s presidential and partial legislative runoffs. The recommendation came after three hours of debate and as concern and uncertainty continue to dog the electoral process four days before the critical vote. A coalition of local observers have announced that they won’t participate, and the private sector has signaled its strong misgivings about the holding of the second round on Sunday. Before the Senate meeting, a group of business leaders from the Haitian-American Chamber met with senators, and soon went to meet with opposition presidential candidate Jude Celestin. Joined by other business leaders, they asked Celestin whether he was willing to sign an agreement negotiated by Roman Catholic Church Cardinal Chibly Langlois that would postpone the vote until next month and a new president’s swearing-in by March 29. President Michel Martely and his hand-picked successor, candidate Jovenel Moïse, have also been presented with the same question, sources familiar with the agreement said.
Haiti’s runoff presidential election will take place on Jan. 24, even though the opposition candidate insists he will boycott the vote because of his lack of faith in the process, the president of the Caribbean nation’s electoral council said on Sunday. Pierre-Louis Opont said the electoral council was busy preparing the runoff contest between ruling party candidate Jovenel Moise and opposition challenger Jude Celestin, who stated on Thursday that he would not take part. “I can confirm that as I talk to you today we have two candidates in the race and their names are Jovenel Moise and Jude Celestin,” Opont told Reuters in an interview. “Their names are already on the ballot and the election will take place as scheduled,” Opont said. He said the deadline for a candidate to withdraw had already passed.
Campaigning for Haiti’s presidential runoff election kicked off Friday, but it appears there is only one candidate who will actively participate. Government-backed contender Jovenel Moise, a little-known agricultural entrepreneur who led a crowded field of 54 candidates with nearly 33 percent of the vote in the Oct. 25 first round, planned his first rally late Friday afternoon. But the campaign team of the second-place finisher, Jude Celestin, has said he will take part in the Jan. 24 runoff only if sweeping changes recently recommended by a special commission are adopted to improve Haiti’s much-criticized electoral machinery. Celestin told The Miami Herald on Thursday that outgoing President Michel Martelly “will have to do an election with just one candidate.” His phone consistently goes unanswered and his campaign team did not respond to calls Friday. While the Provisional Electoral Council has pledged to improve transparency for the final round, special commission spokesman Rosny Desroches has said he has seen very little progress to improve the process and ease tensions since the panel’s recommendations were released last weekend.