Haiti to hold delayed constitutional referendum in September

Haiti’s constitutional referendum, initially slated for April but postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be held on September 26, the electoral commission announced late Monday.

Local and municipal elections are postponed until January 2022, the authorities said.

President Jovenel Moise has been ruling Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, by decree, after legislative elections due in 2018 were delayed and following disputes on when his own term ends.

In addition to presidential, legislative and local elections, Moise had wanted to submit a new draft of the island nation’s constitution to a popular vote on June 27.

The first round of the presidential and legislative elections had already been due to take place on September 26, and the second to be held on November 21.

“The provisional electoral council reaffirms its determination to accomplish its mission in complete independence, in a credible, honest and transparent manner,” said an official statement.

Supported by Moise, the text of the constitutional reform, aimed at strengthening the executive, is still being drafted. 

Two drafts already presented proposed abolishing the Senate and opening up the possibility of a president having two terms in office. 

It has been overwhelmingly rejected by the opposition and many civil society organizations, which have slammed the illegitimacy of the head of state’s mandate and the impossibility of organizing a poll, given the general insecurity in the country.

Since the start of June, clashes between rival gangs in the west of the capital of Port-au-Prince have paralyzed all traffic between the southern half of the country and the capital. 

Thousands of residents of the very poor neighborhood of Martissant, where gangs are fighting a turf war, have been forced to flee their homes. 

On Monday morning, the NGO Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said it was suspending the activities of its hospital, located in the heart of this conflict zone, for a week after the clinic was riddled with bullets on Saturday afternoon. 

The referendum project has raised criticism even in the presidential camp over charges that it does not respect the provisions of the current constitution. 

Written in 1987 after the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, the text currently in force declares that “any popular consultation aimed at modifying the Constitution by referendum is formally prohibited.” 

Since January 2020, the president has governed by decree and without checks and balances due to a lack of elections in recent years.

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