PORT-AU-PRINCE – Opposition protesters have taken to the streets in Haiti to demand the resignation of President Michel Martelly, with pledges that the action will continue Monday if the leader doesn’t step down.
Thousands of Haitians gathered in the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Sunday – the day that the second round of the presidential election had been scheduled to take place before being postponed amid opposition pressure – and began marching through the city.
Dozens of officers of the Haitian National Police (HNP) guarded the demonstration, which saw protesters holding up posters displaying images of opposition candidate Jude Celestin, who refused to take part in the suspended runoff election.
Protesters chanted “Martelly go” and “We want a transitional government,” as they demanded Martelly’s resignation and for new elections to be held.
In the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville, a small number of pro-government protesters gathered to show support for the completion of the election, as they waved signs displaying pictures of government-backed candidate Jovenel Moise.
Moise received the most votes in the first round of the election, which was held in October, but they were labeled “fraudulent” by the opposition.
An independent commission determined that there were “serious irregularities” in the October vote, and recommended measures including developing a new voter list.
Sunday’s peaceful march followed several days of violent protests in Haiti, which saw demonstrators blocking streets and highways and burning a number of voting centers.
In a statement over the weekend, the U.S. urged the Haitian government, “its institutions, and political actors alike to reject violence and take all steps necessary to pave the way for a peaceful election for a new president and the remaining Parliamentary seats as is constitutionally mandated.”
Haitian opposition groups have rejected the U.S. government’s “open interference” in the election, arguing that Washington favors the ruling party.
As well as electing Martelly’s successor, six senators and 25 members of parliament will also be voted in the runoff election.