27 January 2016
Volume 39, Number 4
Haiti has descended into chaos and instability following a decision by the country’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) on January 22 to postpone indefinitely the country’s scheduled January 24 elections.
In an alarming development, a former Haitian coup leader wanted by the United States for narcotics trafficking, has called on his supporters to resist what he referred to as the anarchists who he claimed had forced a presidential election to be cancelled.
The former rebel, Guy Philippe, called for counter protests and said he would not recognise any transitional government that might be put in place when the outgoing President, Michel Martelly, demits office on February 7, unless it was fully representative of the provinces of the country and was not just an elite solution imposed by Port-au-Prince.
“We are ready for war,” Mr Philippe said. “We will divide the country.”
Although it is not clear how much support he commands, observers suggest that his willingness to call for violent solutions reflect the depth of national polarisation over the first round of Presidential voting which were widely believed to have been fraudulent.
After the first round of Presidential elections, the CEP had announced that the government-supported candidate, Jovenel Moise of the Haitian Tet Kale Party, received 508,761 votes (32.8%) while the leading opposition candidate from the Ligue Alternative pour le Progres et L’Emancipation Haitienne (LAPEH), Jude Celestin, took 392,782 votes or 25.27%; an outcome that was widely disputed.
Haiti had been due to choose a replacement for President Martelly on January 24, but this was postponed indefinitely after the opposition candidate, Jude
Celestin, refused to participate sparking unrest and then hard-to-control and widespread violent anti- government protests.
As reported previously, Mr Celestin has said that he and his party would only actively involve itself in elections if the sweeping changes recommended by a special commission to improve Haiti’s much-criticised electoral machinery were adopted first (Caribbean Insight January 6, 2015).
However against a background of growing turmoil, a January 22 press release signed by Pierre-Louis Opont, the President of the CEP, said that faced with a deteriorating security environment the CEP had decided to postpone the electoral process, although President Martelly as late as the day before had confirmed the scheduled date in a message to the nation.
In their statement cancelling the elections, the CEP said that they had based their decision on the growing incidence of arson, sometimes heavy gunfire, looting and the seizing of documents and equipment relating to the elections from schools which act as polling stations.
It said that in order to protect the lives of voters, the CEP staff, and the institution’s assets and in particular schools made available to the CEP for voting, the Council had decided to act.
In response, the government suggested that the decision of the CEP was only a deferment until a later date and said it would hold an extraordinary Council of Ministers meeting to agree measures to guarantee public order and the security of lives and property.
Prior to the announcement by the CEP, a tense situation had developed in the metropolitan area and in several provincial cities, where thousands took to the streets to demand the resignation of President Martelly and the dissolution of the Provisional Electoral Council.
This is an extract from the Caribbean Council’s leading weekly editorially independent publication, Caribbean Insight, which provides in depth information on current economic, political and commercial developments in the Caribbean and news on events in Europe and the US that affect the region. Business people, academics, and those with a general interest in the Caribbean find it an invaluable tool for developing and maintaining knowledge and providing an insight into political, economic and commercial events in the region.
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