Haiti Leader Defies Protester Calls to Cancel Election and Quit
(Bloomberg) -- Haiti’s government will not give in to demands to halt elections and hand over power, as doing so would only fuel the unrest that is gripping the nation, the country’s top electoral official said.
Protesters are calling for President Jovenel Moise to scuttle a constitutional referendum scheduled for June and make way for a transitional government. But that would condemn the country to years of “chaos,” said Elections Minister Mathias Pierre, who was appointed by Moise.
“We need people to understand there is no ‘if’ when it comes to elections,” he said in a telephone interview, “in a democracy elections are a must.”
The poorest nation in the Americas, Haiti has been seized by gang violence and civil disorder as it suffers its worst economic downturn since a devastating 2010 earthquake.
Moise -- who has been ruling by decree for more than a year after authorities failed to organize congressional elections -- wants the country to vote on a new constitution June 27 and then elect a new president and legislature Sept. 19.
Moise “has to hand power over to another elected president,” not a transitional government, Pierre said. “That’s the way democracy works and people should accept the principle.”
The opposition says Moise’s term ended last February and not in 2022 as he contends. U.S. and the Organization of American States sided with Moise on that particular issue, and protesters burned U.S. flags on the streets of Port-au-Prince this week.
Moise has repeatedly said he will not use the constitutional overhaul to run for re-election. But some fear the new document, which creates a unicameral legislative body and replaces the position of prime minister with a vice president, will leave his Tet Kale party strengthened.
Pierre said those fears are misplaced and that the protests have less to do with popular discontent than opposition leaders trying to destabilize the government and seize power that they could never win at the ballot box.
“Don’t mobilize,” Pierre said of the opposition protests. “Pick one leader, go to elections and ask the people to vote for that person. That’s democracy and that’s what we want for our country.”
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