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Interim Haitian president orders voters to the polls for new election

July 20,2016 09:10

Under the recommendations of the Provisional Electoral Council, the October elections will feature a redo of last year's contested presidential first round with 27 candidates, and runoffs for dozens of legislative seats. Elections for one-tier of the ...


Haiti’s embattled interim President Jocelerme Privert has ordered the country’s 5.8 million voters to the polls Oct. 9 to vote on a new president.Privert made the announcement Tuesday as part of a cabinet meeting during which his decree “was widely debated” among ministers, the National Palace said in a statement. “Under no circumstances can we miss the deadline,” Privert said, calling the Oct. 9 election “a key event for the country’s political future.’’Under the recommendations of the Provisional Electoral Council, the October elections will feature a redo of last year’s contested presidential first round with 27 candidates, and runoffs for dozens of legislative seats. Elections for one-tier of the 30-member Senate will also take place. Runoffs for the unresolved Senate races, where 149 candidates are vying for 10 seats, along with runoffs for the presidency and thousands of municipal seats, are slated for Jan. 8.Privert’s move is a controversial one. His 120-day term as provisional president expired on June 14 under a February political accord that he helped negotiate with former President Michel Martelly. Martelly’s five-year presidential term ended on Feb. 7 without an elected successor and with Haiti in the hands of its second caretaker government in 12 years.Some argue that Privert is no longer president and lacks the power to convene voters. Others say because Parliament has failed to vote on whether to end or extend his term, Privert remains in office. While he has missed all of the deadlines under the accord, including an April 24 presidential runoff, the overall goal of electing a democratically elected government in Haiti has not yet happened, supporters argue.Under Haiti’s electoral law, only a president can convene voters to the polls. The country has missed several elections deadline since the Oct. 25, 2015, presidential contest triggered allegations of fraud. In May, a special commission agreed, and ruled that the vote should be rerun. The nine-member elections body agreed.Privert met with elections officials Tuesday along with the heads of the Office of National Identification and Haiti National Police to discuss voter registration and elections security. Still unclear is how Haiti will pay for the balloting, which will cost $55 million. So far the country has about $18 million, including $6 million that was left over in a United Nations Development-controlled elections trust fund that paid for ballots and other voting materials in last year’s disputed legislative and presidential vote.Earlier this month, the U.S. government notified Haitian officials that it will not finance the upcoming elections as it did not plan for a rerun of the presidential vote. The Obama administration also asked two United Nations agencies to refund at least $1.9 million that was given as part of the United States’ $33.4 million elections financing for voting materials and ballot transport. On Wednesday, Haiti’s foreign minister is scheduled to address the Organization of American States Permanent Council about the ongoing political crisis. Last week, parliamentarians blocked a vote on the fate of Privert for the fourth time in a month by preventing a quorum. The OAS, along with the U.N. and several U.S. lawmakers, have reiterated their calls for a resolution. In a July 15 letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Ranking Member Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., told the secretary “if effective steps are not taken to resolve Haiti’s political crisis, the U.S. should reexamine the provision of non-humanitarian assistance to the Government of Haiti.”

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