New vote postponement prolongs Haiti political crisis
Haiti's runoff presidential election, which has been postponed multiple times amid a paralyzing electoral crisis, will not be held at the end of the month as previously scheduled, its election authority said Tuesday.
"We cannot talk about the electoral calendar in the state that we're in," Leopold Berlanger, president of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), said during a press conference at its headquarters in Port-au-Prince.
The runoff elections, which were originally scheduled for December 27, were postponed to January before being rescheduled for April 24.
Haiti has been in deep political crisis since the December runoff between then president Michel Martelly's favored candidate Jovenel Moise and opposition flag-bearer Jude Celestin was called off.
The suspension followed violence and opposition protests by demonstrators alleging that foul play had helped the government candidate take the first round in October.
Moise officially won 32.76 percent of that vote, to 25.29 percent for Celestin.
With successive runoffs canceled and no replacement in sight, Martelly left office on February 7 and a transitional government was established under a last-minute agreement, which also set the election date of April 24.
But on Tuesday, Berlanger argued that he did not have to respect that deadline.
"As the electoral council, we were not part of that agreement," he said.
"We are an independent institution with a framework set by the constitution and electoral law: It is clearly stated that the council has the authority to say when the election can take place," Berlanger said.
During the press conference, his first since being installed last Thursday, Berlanger also criticized the political divisions that have paralyzed Haiti.
The results of local elections, which were held in conjunction with the first-round presidential election on October 25, have been contested in electoral courts in 81 of the country's 140 municipalities.
"This is a serious situation because it shows that the process is sick," Berlanger said.
"How can you have an election in which two-thirds of the positions are contested?" he said, while also denouncing corruption.
"Some people believe that litigation may be the way to buy and sell an election," he added.
The second round presidential vote will also see Haitians cast ballots in a partial legislative election.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, still struggling to get back on its feet after being hobbled by a devastating 2010 earthquake and now plunged into a drawn-out electoral crisis.
© 2016 AFP