Latin America & Caribbean

Haitian protests over delayed elections in Port-au-Prince

Demonstrators march during an anti-government protest in Port-au-Prince on 26 October 2014. Image copyright AP
Image caption Angry voters showed their identification cards in protest at the vote which was cancelled

Thousands of Haitians marched in the capital Port-au-Prince on Sunday in protest at a delay in the country's legislative and municipal elections.

The polls are already years overdue and were scheduled for Sunday.

They were postponed because of an ongoing stalemate between the government and a group of opposition senators over an electoral law.

Haiti is the poorest country in the region and is still struggling to recover from a 2010 earthquake.

Deadlock

Protesters lit piles of wood in the central neighbourhood of Bel Aire before marching to a wealthy hillside neighbourhood, where riot police guarded hotels, shops and Haiti's elections office.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The opposition says Michel Martelly wants to rule by decree

Some demanded President Michel Martelly's resignation for his "inability to organise elections in the country".

Two opposition activists who had organised the protest were arrested by police for "public unrest and inciting violence".

Mid-term senate elections in Haiti had been due in May 2012, while the municipal poll is three years behind schedule as Haiti slowly emerges from the earthquake which left much of the country devastated in 2010.

In June, President Michel Martelly decreed that the elections be held on 26 October.

The date was set after lengthy talks mediated by the president of Haiti's Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Chibly Langlois, intended to overcome the political deadlock between the opposition and the government.

But after the National Assembly failed to pass an electoral law in time, the office of Mr Martelly announced another postponement on Sunday.

No new date has been set, but the statement said that "President Michel Martelly, in his constant concern to guarantee political stability, promises to pursue consultations with the different sectors of national life in order to hold the elections as soon as possible".

Opposition politicians accuse President Martelly of wanting to rule by decree - a likely scenario if no elections are held before the lower chamber's term runs out in January.

The government argues that opposition politicians are also dragging their feet in the hope of extending their time in office without elections.

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