PORT-AU-PRINCE: On the heels of alleged electoral irregularities, Haiti has pushed back next week’s presidential runoff, election officials said Monday, without immediately announcing a new date.
The runoff vote had been scheduled for December 27, after an October 25 first-round vote marred by allegations of massive voter fraud across the Caribbean nation.
The runoff was to pit Jovenel Moise — backed by outgoing president Michel Martelly and the ruling party — against Jude Celestin, the second-place vote-getter from more than 50 contenders in the first round of balloting.
The October presidential election was the latest attempt in the Americas’ poorest country to shed chronic political instability and work toward development.
But reporting of the election results — and now, the staging of the runoff vote — has been plagued with delays and beset by protests alleging official corruption.
Moise won 32.8 percent of the first-round balloting and Celestin took 25.3 percent, the federal election commission said.
Martelly, who is banned by the constitution from serving two consecutive terms, said that on Thursday an electoral evaluation committee would be set up to determine the way forward.
“No new date has been officially set,” electoral council spokesman Roudy Stanley Penn told AFP. “We are awaiting the findings of the electoral evaluation committee to follow its direction.”
Celestin meanwhile called the delay “a step in the right direction” in terms of allowing room for any doubts about fraud to be addressed.
Some supporters of candidates other than Moise have called for an independent committee since they do not trust the work of the electoral council indirectly under Martelly’s authority.
Moise is a businessman and political novice who until now worked in agriculture, mainly growing bananas. His nickname during the campaign was “the banana man.”
Celestin, making his second bid for the Haitian presidency, was disqualified from the second round in the 2010 election vote following a recount by the Organization of American States. This time, he had been considered the frontrunner.
The first round of voting was relatively peaceful, in contrast to violence during August legislative elections that left two people dead.
Haiti is still struggling to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people and crippled the nation’s infrastructure.
After being mired for years in a political crisis that kept any elections from being held, Haiti has been on an electoral marathon this year, holding presidential, legislative and now finally these municipal elections.
Since the end of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti has been jolted by coups and contested elections that have further undermined the fragile economy.