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Without setting a new election date, Haiti’s provisional electoral council announced that the sine die postponement of the constitutional referendum, initially scheduled for June 27, is “motivated by the difficulties in assembling and training temporary staff”. The country is facing an increase in Covid-19 cases.
There were many doubts about the organization of the constitutional referendum led by the Haitian president. Widely contested by the opposition, the poll scheduled for June 27 in Haiti has been postponed indefinitely due to the health crisis, the Haitian electoral administration announced Monday evening (June 7th).
“This decision is motivated by the difficulties for the council to assemble and train all the temporary staff for the conduct of the poll,” the Haitian provisional electoral council said in a statement. No date for her outfit has yet been set.
A new electoral calendar will be established “after the recommendations of the health authorities and the technical opinions of the executives of the electoral institution”, according to the council.
A controversial ballot
Since May 24, Haiti has declared a state of health emergency throughout its territory in the face of the increase in Covid-19 cases, following the detection of the Alpha and Gamma variants (respectively identified for the first time in the United Kingdom in December 2020 and in Brazil in January 2021).
Before this recent spread of the coronavirus epidemic in the country, doubts already existed about the organization of the referendum carried by the president.
The legitimacy of Jovenel Moses, which has governed by decree and without checks and balances since January 2020, is contested by a large part of the political opposition and many civil society organizations.
“It is a pretext to bring up the coronavirus: the government finds itself embroiled in an illegal, illegitimate and unpopular unconstitutional referendum project,” reacted former MP Jerry Tardieu.
Some critics of the power in place are even accusing members of the electoral council of possible embezzlement of public funds. “They released 600 million gourdes (around 5.4 million euros) for staff training so I think it’s a laundering operation: they knew they weren’t going to do it, but the money was released last Thursday, “accused former senator Youri Latortue on Monday evening in an interview with AFP.
Reluctance of the international community
Such an election raises criticism even in the presidential camp because the procedure is accused of not respecting the provisions of the current Constitution.
Written in 1987, after the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, the text currently in force declares that “any popular consultation aimed at modifying the Constitution by referendum is formally prohibited”.
The international community has also made no secret of its reservations about such an election. At the end of May, the US ambassador to the United Nations (UN) criticized the process, saying the preparations were “not sufficiently transparent or inclusive”.
The European Union (EU) had also indicated that it would not finance the organization of the referendum, deeming the process insufficiently transparent and democratic.
Organizing a vote committing the country’s long-term political future seems complicated given the growing insecurity in Haiti.
At the weekend, access to the southern half of the country was made impossible by clashes between two gangs for control of a poor neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, politically strategic because it is densely populated.
Faced with this violence, hundreds of people living in the area, located a few hundred meters from the presidential palace, were forced to flee their homes, finding refuge in churches and gymnasiums in a neighboring municipality.
Beyond the capital, the stranglehold of armed gangs on Haitian territory has increased in recent months, observe human rights organizations. And from March to May, according to the count of Haitian organizations, nearly twentykidnappings for ransom were perpetrated daily by gangs, targeting both the affluent minority and residents living below the poverty line.