PORT-AU-PRINCE: Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Haiti’s capital Saturday, setting tires ablaze and demanding the resignation of outgoing President Michel Martelly following the postponement of a runoff to pick his replacement.
Haiti’s electoral authority called off the Sunday vote due to “obvious security concerns” on Friday, less than 48 hours before the polls were set to open.
Crowds gathered in Port-au-Prince Friday and Saturday to show their anger at the move. Many voters say the first-round presidential election was marred by fraud favoring Jovenel Moise, Martelly’s hand-picked successor.
On Saturday, a mob targeted a market next to the presidential palace. Security guards fired live bullets into the air, an action that only fueled the crowd’s anger, a witness reported.
Protesters hurled rocks and police responded with blasts of water laced with an irritant. In another show of discontent, tires were set on fire.
One person suffered a gunshot wound, three vehicles were set ablaze and several storefront windows were smashed when a mob struck Friday near the headquarters of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP).
More than a dozen polling stations were attacked or burned Thursday to Friday before the postponement.
The protests, which have increased in frequency since November, reject the idea that Moise even participate in the election.
“We didn’t vote for a banana, we will not eat that banana” is one of the top protest slogans, a reference to Moise’s banana export operations.
“What is the greatest violence when a government tries to steal the will of the people? When a president tries to provoke and humiliate an entire people?” asked Evel Fanfan, an attorney for one of the main political parties.
“When the violence is the result of violence for freedom and for democracy, I would say that is good violence,” Fanfan told AFP at a Saturday march.
Opposition politician Assad Volcy, meanwhile, stated what many in the crowd wanted: “We now demand the departure of Michel Martelly and (Prime Minister) Paul Evans, and the formation of a transitional government before February 7 to lead the electoral process.”
Moise separately urged a “quick organization of the second round” at a Saturday news conference.
He also said he thought “the people are ready to vote for Jovenel Moise en masse.”
However, Moise’s opponent, Jude Celestin, went so far as to boycott the poll in protest.