Opposition candidate Jude Célestin assailed Haiti’s oft-delayed presidential election scheduled for this Sunday and threatened with officially withdrawing.
“I refuse to participate in this masquerade that has only one goal, swallow snakes to the entire Haitian population, stop taking us for idiots,” declared the candidate of the Alternative League for Haitian Progress and Empowerment (LAPEH).
Without mentioning him by name, Célestin claimed that ruling party pick Jovenel Moise would be a “traitor” if he were to participate in the January 24th runoff. He also warned voters they would be committing a “serious mistake” if they head to the polls, and blamed current President Michel Martelly for interfering in the electoral process.
Célestin and Moise emerged from a first round in October packed with fifty-four candidates but the LAPEH alliance and some runners-up accused Martelly forces of widespread electoral fraud. An independent panel on January 3rd noted “irregularities” by poll workers including problems at a majority of polling stations. Nevertheless, they concluded that the runoff could go ahead for later in the month.
Update (January 20, Noon): Violent protests continued for a second straight day in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday with some opposition demonstrators chanting "The revolution has started, get your gun ready."
President Martelly said that the runoff will take place on Sunday though legislators are debating postponing the vote yet again and establishing a "verification commission."
Update (January 20, 9:30 PM): Haiti's Senate passed a resolution calling for the runoff to be suspended and rescheduled. The declaration is non-binding, however, and the election will surely be held as planned for this Sunday.
The decisive second round was originally to have taken place on December 2015 but was delayed twice by electoral officials amid the uproar over the first round. Célestin reacted by stopping all campaigning and accused the government of being unable to ensure a fair election. The election has transforming into a de facto one-man race even though electoral authorities will not remove Célestin’s name and face from the official ballot.
Moise was picked by Martelly to head the Haitian Tèt Kale Party was able to win the first round with nearly one in three voters backing him. Martelly deemed the engineer and businessman as “the entrepreneurial spirit that we need for our youth, that new dynamic that we need for our economy.” Critics blasted Moise for his political inexperience with political cartoons in Haiti's biggest newspaper supposedly depicting him as wearing diapers and using a pacifier.
International bodies and the U.S. government hope the process can be transparent and help bring some measure of political stability to the Caribbean country. Haitians have an “opportunity to more fully realize the democratic governance they so greatly need and deserve,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this month. A State Department statement published today was more direct:
The State Department urged the government of Haiti and politicians of all stripes “to take all steps necessary” to transfer power to a newly-elected president on February 7 as planned.
“Given the constitutional deadline to install a new president by February 7, and having made numerous concessions to try to ensure Celestin’s participation, the government of Haiti and the electoral council are preparing to hold the second round of presidential elections on January 24,” it said.
“The United States supports the electoral process and decisions of Haitian institutions and electoral authorities,” the statement declared.Political tensions in Haiti have spilled onto the streets where protesters upset at the possible corruption and opposed to Martelly have sometimes clashed with police. Several thousand people reportedly rioted in several Haitian cities on Monday including the capital of Port-Au-Prince.
"We have reached the limit; we will use violence because we must respond to the (government's) violence against our rights,” said one protester.
YouTube Source – AFP
Online Sources including Update - Deutsche Welle; The Jamaica Observer, HaitiLibre.com, The Tico Times, Voice of America, France24, ABC News, NBC News