HAITI has come under pressure to postpone tomorrow’s presidential election after opposition candidate Jude Celestin pulled out of the race.

Citing fraud, Celestin has called for voters to boycott the poll. Turnout is expected to be low, not helped by street protests, and tensions between rival camps.

Outgoing president Michel Martelly has called on police to ensure the scheduled run-off election goes ahead. His hand-picked candidate Jovenel Moïse was little known in the country before the first round of the presidential election in October which he won with a third of the vote.

Senators who were newly appointed thus voted unanimously to postpone the vote. They received support from the Catholic church, business groups and local election observers who have all warned the election may not lead to a credible outcome.

Political instability has hampered Haiti’s efforts to rebuild six years after a devastating earthquake.

International partners, including the United Nations and the United States, wanted the election held on Sunday to ensure a new president was in place by February 7, a constitutional deadline.


THE US have supported the elections to the tune of $33m and are pushing for them to go ahead.

Celestin was second in a field of 54 candidates in the October election, almost eight percentage points behind Moise, a banana exporter.

Then only about a quarter of Haiti’s 5.8 million registered voters cast their ballots in the first round.

However, local observers say a bizarre loophole meant thousands of booth watchers employed by parties were able to vote more than once.

Although that loophole has now been closed, many Haitians were fearful of being caught up in clashes between police and protesters.

“Given the situation, I don’t think I should leave my house, I don’t know what is going to happen,” said Gaspar Levasaus, a security guard and resident of the Delmas district of the capital Port-au-Prince said.

Planned protest marches are running through the weekend to Sunday, while Martelly has ordered the police to “take all necessary measures” to provide security for those who want to vote.

Celestin’s supporters and other opposition groups barricaded streets in downtown Port-au-Prince twice this week. Cars were burned and windows smashed. There is a deep distrust of Martelly.

“It’s not going to be an election, it’s a selection,” said unemployed Joseph Pierre,

“It will plunge the country into chaos if it goes ahead,” Pierre said.

The country of about 10 million people has struggled to build a stable democracy since the overthrow of the 1957-1986 dictatorship of the Duvalier family and ensuing military coups and election fraud.

The latest round of political volatility has distracted from the reconstruction after the earthquake.


FORMERLY a singer known as Sweet Micky famous for his performances on carnival floats, Martelly, who lived in the US for a number of years, is required by the constitution to leave office by February 7, when the annual celebration starts this year.

However, his five-year term does not end until May, meaning that there is some flexibility to delay the vote although it has already been postponed twice.

Opposition groups are calling for a transitional, interim government to be set up to oversee a totally new electoral process when Martelly stands down.

Some Haitians see that as a recipe for more uncertainty and prefer to push ahead.

“Everything has come to a standstill because of the elections,” said out-of-work construction labourer Rodrigue Pierre, holding a hammer on the edge of a hillside cinder-block slum in Port-au-Prince. “We just want a new president.”

Evans Paul, Haiti’s prime minister and long-time opposition politician, has warned that the embattled Caribbean nation faces two choices: “The first is the vote on the 24th, the other... is chaos.”

Gregory Brandt, chairman of the influential Private Sector Economic Forum – who, along with the Conference of Catholic Bishops and others, is seeking to broker an agreement to postpone the vote to March 13 – said: “If you have an election with no opponent, there will be a deficit of legitimacy.”

Chibly Langlois, the Haitian Roman Catholic Cardinal, warned last Thursday that “the necessary conditions are not there to have good elections”.