Haiti’s president promised on Thursday to leave power in three days’ time despite having no replacement after a botched election, as opposition protests intensified and politicians squabbled over who should lead an interim government. President Michel Martelly had earlier warned he would not step aside without an established succession plan, enraging protesters who have marched almost daily in the capital Port-au-Prince over the past two weeks. Haiti’s constitution requires Martelly to leave office on Feb. 7, but runoff elections to choose the next president were canceled last month when opposition candidate Jude Celestin threatened to boycott the vote and protests turned violent.
Haiti’s current president is supposed to leave office on Sunday, but there is no one to take his place. Haitians have been protesting all week against the nation’s electoral process after disputed elections in the fall saw current President Michel Martelly’s chosen successor take the lead. The Caribbean island held presidential elections on Oct. 25, 2015. Since no candidate won a majority of the vote, a run-off election was scheduled for Dec. 27. In the first round, Banana exporter Jovenel Moise and mechanical engineer Jude Celestin won most of the votes at 32.8 percent and 25.3 percent, respectively. Moise is Martelly’s chosen successor. More than 50 others ran for the nation’s top post. The runoff was postponed several times due to protests — which sometimes turned violent — against what the opposition called fraud in the first election.
Michel Martelly, Haiti’s president, had planned to mark the end of his term in office by going back to his old job as a popular singer of compas, a Haitian form of merengue. The idea was to perform once more as “Sweet Micky” at the Carnival in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, which begins on February 7th, the day he is due to step down as president. The problem is that there is no one to succeed him. The second round of the presidential election, scheduled for January 24th after two postponements, was called off two days before the vote. Jude Célestin, the runner-up in the first round of voting in October, had condemned the ballot as a “ridiculous farce” and refused to campaign further. Thousands of his supporters, and those of candidates who lost in the first round, took to the streets to demand that the run-off be cancelled. Haiti’s electoral council said the danger of violence was too great for it to go ahead.
As a paralyzing political crisis pushed Haiti into an uncertain phase a year ago this month, a stoic President Michel Martelly assured the Haitian people and the international community that he had no interest in governing without the checks and balances of a parliament. “The only decree that I would take is one to organize elections,” Martelly said on the fifth anniversary of the devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake as the terms of the entire lower house and a second tier of the 30-member Senate expired because of overdue legislative elections. Now as Haiti prepares to mark another quake anniversary, it is also preparing to welcome back a functioning Senate and lower house after 14 new Senators and 92 Deputies were elected in the much-criticized Aug. 9 and Oct. 25 election
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 postponed presidential and legislative runoffs and elections in Haiti have finally been given a new date. According to Miami Herald, it is now set to take place on January 24, 2016. Head of the Provisional Electoral Council Pierre-Louis Opont shared the date in a letter to President Michel Martelly after the nine-member council meeting was finally dismissed. Just the day before, Opont told Martelly that it was impossible to organize the elections for January 17, and so the final date could be staged to guarantee the handover of power from one president to another in time to meet the imposed deadline for February 7.
Haiti’s outgoing leader met with election authorities Tuesday in search of a solution to the country’s deepening electoral impasse, after an official said it would be impossible to hold a presidential runoff in time for a transfer of power by the constitutional deadline. President Michel Martelly announced last week that Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council was warning that the runoff must be held by Jan. 17 to fulfill the constitutional mandate of inaugurating a new president Feb. 7.
The latest date that Haiti could hold its postponed presidential runoff to meet a constitutionally mandated hand-over of power deadline by outgoing President Michel Martelly is Jan. 17, Prime Minister Evans Paul said. But meeting that deadline will depend heavily on whether a five-member electoral evaluation commission is able to find a solution to break the political impasse, Paul acknowledged during a visit to South Florida over the weekend to attend the funeral of longtime friend and respected Haitian journalist Pharès Duverné. Duverné, who received political exile in South Florida in 2001 after fleeing Haiti amid attacks against journalists, died in an Orlando hospital on Dec. 13 of kidney failure.
The United Nations Security Council urged Haiti on Wednesday to quickly reschedule its postponed presidential election ahead off further civil unrest. The second round of voting to choose a successor to President Michel Martelly had been due to go ahead on December 27 but was cancelled after fraud allegations. The first-round of voting and the subsequent lengthy and delayed vote count was marked by street protests alleging official corruption. An “election evaluation committee” has been set up to determine a way forward, but no new date has been set for the run-off, leaving the western hemisphere’s poorest country once more in political limbo.
Haiti’s opposition and Senate have rejected a newly formed electoral commission, saying the President Michel Martelly-created body fails to respond to demands of Haitians seeking an inquiry into the Oct. 25 first round presidential vote. Nor does the commission, they say, resolve the post-electoral impasse that has been holding up a presidential runoff. “It doesn’t correspond to what the society has been asking, to what the candidates have been asking; nor does it assure the credibility of the process,” said Senator Jocelerme Privert. “I believe all actors have to begin to think about what’s in the best interest of the nation — peace, security, stability in the first days of 2016. This commission will not provide any of that.” A coalition of eight presidential candidates, dubbed the G8, also issued a statement about the commission, calling it a “cosmetic solution” to the crisis. Members said “it is inconceivable and unacceptable” that the country’s embattled Provisional Electoral Council and executive would work together to force such a solution on them without consulting them.