Mon, Jan 25, 2016 - Page 7 News List

International community appeals for calm in Haiti

AP, PORT-AU-PRINCE

Demonstrators set fire to a tire during protests in Port-au-Prince on Saturday.

Photo: EPA

The international community appealed for dialogue and calm in Haiti on Saturday after a presidential and legislative runoff was put on hold indefinitely.

The UN, international election observers and foreign governments urged the volatile Caribbean country’s feuding political actors to negotiate a solution to an electoral impasse that threatens to soon become a constitutional crisis.

Haiti’s charter requires a new government to take power on Feb. 7, but election authorities said there is now no chance the country would meet that deadline to pick the next president. It is unclear whether an interim government will be set up, or another solution may be reached.

In a statement, 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 Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council postponed the runoff a second time without naming a new date for the vote.

The splintering council cited what it called a “deteriorating security environment” to explain its decision, but there has also been widespread opposition to the vote on the part of civil society. The opposition presidential candidate had promised to boycott the runoff.

A day after protesters set fires and smashed windows, a few thousand anti-government demonstrators again took to the streets of Port-au-Prince on Saturday. Young men threw rocks and lit tire barricades on fire downtown, sending black smoke billowing into the air.

Many called for new elections and the immediate removal of Haitian President Michel Martelly.

Presidential candidate Jovenel Moise said he was mystified that electoral authorities would again postpone the runoff without immediately providing a new date. The vote was originally supposed to be held on Dec. 27 last year.

Moise, whose first-place finish in the first round prompted allegations of vote-rigging, told reporters he believes he is the people’s choice and called for the runoff to be held soon and peacefully.

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

Some Haitians 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.”

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