Published On: Thu, Mar 12th, 2015

Anti-government movement loses momentum in Haiti

Haiti Port au PrincePORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - A movement initiated by radical opposition parties and other groups to demand the early resignation of Haiti's President Michel Martelly as a prerequisite for their participation in the next election, seems to have been losing momentum over the past weeks in the Caribbean country where significant steps have been taken toward holding long-delayed elections.

Opposition hardliners organized two street demonstrations last week that rallied only a few hundred people and a two-day general strike launched on Monday had few enforcers and business continued as usual.

In the face of the weak response to the first day of the strike, organizers decided to cancel the second day. Supporters of the government say was to avoid embarrassment.

A number of individuals tried on Monday to intimidate people who were trying to go to work and other occupations by throwing rocks, burning tires and uttering threats.

Assad Volcy, a representative of the hard-line opposition, explained that the loss of momentum comes from the fact that anti-government protests had stopped for a while and assured that the movement will pick up again.

Meanwhile, Martelly has issued an executive order that set a new legal framework for the organization of crucial presidential, legislative and local elections later this year.

Prime Minister Evans Paul last week symbolically handed over to the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) a copy of the decree governing the organization of the upcoming elections, marking a decisive step toward the holding of the vote before the end of the year, as part of a series of efforts to solve a political impasse that threatens the country's stability.

Paul said he wanted to symbolically deliver a copy of the decree, published in the Republic's gazette, Le Moniteur, to election authorities, as a clear sign that Martelly and the government are doing all that depends on them to make sure that democratic, free, fair, inclusive and credible elections take place in Haiti this year.

The presidential election will take place on the constitutionally set date of October 25, 2015, but the first round of the ballot to renew two thirds of the 30-member senate and to elect 118 members of the Lower Chamber could take place as early as July, according to a tentative calendar recently issued by elections authorities for discussions among political parties and civil society groups.

Paul said the main obstacle to the organization of elections was the lack of legal provisions. Therefore, the executive branch and other stakeholders have agreed to the promulgation of the two important decrees.

The first decree deals with the operational organization of the election, while the second modifies a June 2005 decree regarding the national identification card (CIN), by extending the validity of expired CINs until December 2017, given that many invalid identification card holders had expressed concern about their right to vote, since the National Identification Office would not have the capacity to renew all the expired cards in time for the upcoming elections.

Presenting a valid CIN is a prerequisite to the exercise of the right to vote and the lack of administrative capability of the Identification office has generally caused long delays in the delivering of identification cards.

The president of the electoral council, Pierre Louis Opont, reiterated the commitment of his institution to the holding of free and credible elections before the end of the year and promised the publication of a final calendar, following a meeting planned for next week between the council and political parties.

By Joe Colas

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