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Monday 19 March 2018

Protests in Haiti after presidential vote is cancelled

A protester sets tyres alight after it was announced that Haiti's run-off presidential election had been postponed (AP)
A protester sets tyres alight after it was announced that Haiti's run-off presidential election had been postponed (AP)

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets of Haiti's capital after a presidential run-off was put on hold indefinitely.

A day after protesters set fires and smashed windows in Port-au-Prince, young men again threw rocks and set tyre barricades on fire in the centre of the city, sending black smoke billowing into the air.

Many called for new elections and the immediate removal of President Michel Martelly, as they protested on Saturday.

"He cannot stay a second longer," said Frantzo Nepha, an unemployed 24-year-old.

T he international community appealed for calm, as t he UN, international election observers and foreign governments urged the volatile Caribbean country's feuding politicians to find a solution to an electoral impasse that threatens to become a constitutional crisis.

Haiti's charter requires a new government to take power on February 7, but election authorities say there is now no chance the country will meet the deadline to pick the next president.

It is unclear whether an interim government will be set up.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Haitians to work toward "peaceful completion of the electoral process without delay".

Government officials have not addressed the impasse publicly since Friday afternoon, when the Provisional Electoral Council postponed the run-off a second time without naming a new date for the vote.

The council cited a "deteriorating security environment" to explain its decision, but there has also been widespread opposition to the vote. The opposition presidential candidate had promised to boycott the run-off.

Ruling party candidate Jovenel Moise said he was mystified that electoral authorities would again postpone the run-off without immediately providing a new date. The vote was originally supposed to be held on December 27.

Mr Moise, whose top finish in the first round prompted allegations of vote-rigging, told reporters he believes he is the people's choice and called for the run-off to be held soon and peacefully.

"Our generation has a responsibility to show other countries in the world that we are a civilized nation," he said.

Many Haitians are exasperated by the political infighting and disruptive protests.

"It seems like politicians want to drag the Haitian people backward," said Karine Fenelon, as she picked out oranges at a roadside fruit stall.

Some blame the election mess on the international community and especially Washington, which they believe is far too involved in Haitian affairs.

"All of these so-called friends of Haiti are stopping us from moving forward," mechanic Patrick Augustin said. "Martelly's government is always taking dictation from the US."

Press Association

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