Protesters take to Haiti streets after vote put on hold

A scuffle breaks out druing protest in Port-au-Prince. Picture: AFP/Getty
A scuffle breaks out druing protest in Port-au-Prince. Picture: AFP/Getty

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets of Haiti’s capital after a presidential run-off was put on hold indefinitely.

A day after protesters set fires and smashed windows in Port-au-Prince, young men again threw rocks and set tyre barricades on fire in the centre of the city, sending black smoke billowing into the air.

Many called for new elections and the immediate removal of president Michel Martelly, as they protested on Saturday.

“He cannot stay a second longer,” said Frantzo Nepha, an unemployed 24-year-old.

The international community appealed for calm, as the UN, international election observers and foreign governments urged the volatile Caribbean country’s feuding politicians to find a solution to an electoral impasse that threatens to become a constitutional crisis.

Haiti’s charter requires a new government to take power on 7 February, but election authorities say there is now no chance the country will meet the deadline to pick the next president. It is unclear whether an interim government will be set up.

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 the Provisional Electoral Council postponed the run-off a second time without naming a new date for the vote.

The council cited a “deteriorating security environment” to explain its decision, but there has also been widespread opposition to the vote. The opposition presidential candidate had promised to boycott the run-off.