Opposition protesters erected burning roadblocks and shattered windows in a section of Haiti's capital on Tuesday to press for new elections less than a week before a Jan. 24 presidential and legislative runoff.
On the second day of protests that began Monday, a few thousand people joined the demonstration in downtown Port-au-Prince, marching through narrow streets and occasionally chanting: "The revolution has started, get your gun ready." People threw rocks, smashing windshields and the windows of a bank. They also overturned vendors' stalls to block law enforcement vehicles.
Campaigning for Haiti's presidential runoff kicked off earlier this month, but only government-backed candidate Jovenel Moise is participating. Opposition presidential candidate Jude Celestin is boycotting the Jan. 24 vote, arguing he has no chance to win because the deck is stacked against him by Haiti's electoral machinery and interference by the international community.
Celestin leads an opposition alliance alleging "massive fraud" in favor of Moise, outgoing President Michel Martelly's chosen successor. Moise won nearly 33 percent of the vote in the disputed Oct. 25 first round that was endorsed by international monitors. Martelly has been ruling by decree since January 2015.
The Haitian National Police dispersed the demonstrators with tear gas before they arrived at Haiti's Parliament, where senators were discussing a resolution to potentially postpone Sunday's vote and set up a verification commission. Lawmakers in Haiti's upper house expect to vote on the matter Wednesday.
Haiti's influential Chamber of Commerce issued a Tuesday statement saying it was concerned about the electoral crisis and called for a recent special commission's recommendations to be adopted, including the redesign of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council.
Martelly told reporters at a conference of foreign ministers visiting Haiti that he was ready to vote Sunday and would ensure that security was in place to ensure safe balloting for citizens. Martelly, who is barred from seeking a consecutive term and is due to leave office Feb. 7, argues that the opposition has spread unsubstantiated allegations about "massive fraud" to improve their chances at gaining power.
Electoral council authorities also insist that the vote will take place as scheduled. They have said Celestin's name and photo will appear on ballots because he never officially withdrew from the race.
The United Nations, the United States and the Organization of American States have said they support holding the final round this month so a transfer of power to a new leader can take place by the Feb. 7 constitutional deadline.
The Associated Press