Haiti president pushes ahead with plans to elect successor despite boycott, rally

By Amelie Baron, AFP

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti–Haiti’s outgoing president brushed aside street protests, boycott threats and fraud claims Thursday to push ahead with plans to elect his successor this weekend. Michel Martelly, who is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election himself, dismissed opposition demands that he postpone Sunday’s presidential run-off.

He addressed the nation Thursday night and said that since taking office in 2011, he has vowed to leave office on schedule in February. “The election must be held, and it will be held amid order and discipline,” Martelly said. His decision will reassure Haiti’s main foreign sponsor, the United States, which this week said the government had already made “numerous concessions” to opposition concerns. But it could trigger rage on the streets. The opposition candidate will boycott a vote he has branded a “farce” and his supporters are mobilizing for protests. In October’s first round vote, Martelly’s chosen successor Jovenel Moise was credited with 32.76 percent of the vote over opposition flag-bearer Jude Celestin’s 25.29 percent. But many polling stations remained closed due to unrest or electoral skullduggery and voter turnout was tiny. Celestin’s supporters cried foul, accusing Martelly of mounting an “electoral coup d’etat.” The government allowed a hastily assembled independent commission to review the ballots, but the opposition has not been mollified and protests have erupted. “On the 24th, it’s ‘No,’” Celestin told AFP this week. “I won’t take part in this farce, it will be a selection not an election because there will only be one candidate.”