Written by Staff Writer
24 Jan, 2016 | 6:36 am
The streets of Port-au-Prince erupted in violence for the second-straight day on Saturday (January 23) as protesters burned tyres and hurled rocks during mass demonstrations even after Sunday’s (January 24) election was postponed indefinitely.
The demonstrators, mostly aligned with the country’s opposition, demanded outgoing President Michel Martelly leave power immediately and that fair elections be held to replace him.
The demonstrations came even after authorities buckled to pressure and cancelled the presidential election, which the opposition said was riddled with fraud.
The Caribbean nation was due to hold a runoff vote on Sunday (January 24), but the two-man race was postponed indefinitely after opposition candidate Jude Celestin refused to participate and anti-government protests and violence spread nationally.
By early afternoon, about 1,000 protesters had gathered in downtown Port-au-Prince with protest leaders calling for Martelly to step down.
“So that Martelly leaves power; so that he leaves the country. We don’t like him because what he is doing in the (presidential) palace is bad. He hasn’t done anything for the people,” one demonstrator told Reuters.
Martelly says the allegations of fraud are unfounded but many protesters believe he unfairly favoured his chosen successor, banana exporter Jovenel Moise, and are demanding that the president leave office right away.
Moise, meanwhile, said he would not let down his supporters.
“The people who went out and voted for the banana man (referring to himself), number five in the PHTK (Moise’s political party) on October 25, I ask them to continue to trust in me because I will not let them down. I will not betray them and I will not back down,” Moise said.
Opposition leaders said the protests would continue, in a move that will keep up the pressure on Martelly as different factions try to influence the contours of any transitional administration charged with organizing the delayed election.
Celestin’s campaign manager Gerald Germain echoed that sentiment, saying the demonstrations would continue until fair elections were held.
“The demonstrations will continue until the people are satisfied with their demands; that President Martelly leaves on February 7. Afterwards, we will have to reform the electoral council and organise elections that the majority of the people can trust. And then the protests will stop,” Germain said.
Martelly is due to leave office in two weeks and Haiti may need an interim body to organize the next election, but the government and different opposition leaders will struggle to agree on who leads such an administration.
Hamstrung with weak institutions, impoverished Haiti has struggled to build a stable democracy since the overthrow of the 1957-1986 dictatorship of the Duvalier family and ensuing military coups and election fraud.
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