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Haitian Elections Are Postponed For A 3rd Time


Haiti was supposed to hold a presidential election yesterday, and it was postponed for the third time. The head of Haiti's electoral counsel says he's delaying the vote for security reasons. People who contend this election will be rigged have been launching demonstrations, and there have been reports of gunfire. NPR's Carrie Kahn is in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What's at stake in this election?

KAHN: As everything in Haiti, it's about the government, and it's about power. There isn't a lot of industry. It's the poorest in the Western hemisphere. So it's about going to win this election and who gets the power. It's the second election in this runoff. And there were supposed to be two candidate running. One was from the ruling party, the president - current president's party. He's barred from running again. And the second place finisher in the primary refused to participate, just saying there was just too much massive fraud going on.

INSKEEP: OK. So you have Michel Martelly, the outgoing president, trying to install a successor. You have an opposition to that, and you have allegations of fraud, you said. Is that what's made this election so contentious?

KAHN: Elections are always contentious in Haiti. It's just - it hasn't been able to pull it off. This is a country that has a terrible history of dictatorships and coups. And so it's been very fragile, the democracy here, only a change in power peacefully one or two times. And they just haven't been able to pull it off this year. This would have been the third election - legislative elections and two presidential runoffs. And they just couldn't pull it off. The election officials couldn't do it. And they couldn't agree how to do it. And it has just fallen apart here in the last couple of days. There hasn't even been a date when they're going to hold new elections, and the protests just continue to grow here in the streets.

INSKEEP: So what do the protesters want? Because if you have no election you have no election.

KAHN: Right. Right now, what they're calling for is they want the president to step down. They want him to leave the country, and they want an interim government. And that's going to be very tricky. There is a constitutional deadline that the president needs to leave office by February 7. There's no way that there can be an election before then that can be held peacefully and credibly. And so now we have this constitutional deadline and at a stalemate. And we haven't heard anything from the president, and the international community really wants these elections to be held.

INSKEEP: What's it feel like when you walk around the streets of Port-au-Prince?

KAHN: Well, I was at a demonstration yesterday, and it did seem smaller than the days before. And as you said, there were reports of gunfire and burning tires, as always in protest here in Haiti. There was some damage to businesses. But it didn't - it felt tense, but the protests were not as big as in the last few days. And people didn't seem as eager to create problems. The police here is greatly outnumbered; that's another thing. And so they were holding - I felt like they were very restrained in their dealings with them. They're just outnumbered. And we have not seen the U.N. police force out in any way. So it's just a difficult time here in Haiti right now. And we'll have to see what happens because with no elections being put forth, we don't know what's going to happen with the government right now.

INSKEEP: OK. That's NPR's Carrie Kahn with the latest from Haiti, where an election was postponed to an indefinite time. Carrie, thanks, as always.

KAHN: You're welcome, Steve. Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.
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