Sun | Jun 13, 2021

Constitutional referendum postponed indefinitely

Published:Thursday | June 10, 2021 | 12:06 AM


Haiti has announced the postponement of the constitutional referendum that was originally scheduled for June 27.

While the authorities have not disclosed a new date for the referendum that had been criticised by the opposition, the officials are blaming a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases as well as the renewal of the state of health emergency by the executive on May 31.

The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) said that after consultations with the authorities of the Ministry of Health and several meetings with the members of the scientific unit, it felt obliged to postpone sine die the constitutional referendum of June 27.

“Consequently, a new calendar of referendum and electoral activities will be adopted and published by the council after the recommendations of the health authorities and the technical opinions of the executives of the electoral institution.,” said CEP President Guylande Mesadieu.

An official statement said the decision to postpone was motivated by “difficulties” the electoral council faced as it tried “to assemble and train all the temporary staff for the realisation of the poll” in the face of the pandemic.

A new date would be set “after the recommendations of the health authorities and the technical advice of the executives of the electoral institution”, it said.

Haiti has recorded 325 deaths and 15,435 positive cases of the virus since the first case was detected in March last year..

The constitutional referendum would have been the first referendum in the country since 1987. It was unilaterally proposed by the Jovenel Moise administration even as the opposition maintained calls to boycott the event.

Moise had said that the referendum was necessary as the government moves to reform the constitution. He has been facing calls for his resignation and has been ruling by decree after legislative elections due in 2018 were delayed and following disputes on when his own term ends. The presidential, legislative and local elections are scheduled for September.

Last week, president of the Senate, Joseph Lambert, said that the referendum will not be held in his South East Department.

“I call on the people to rebellion, to revolt … to show temerity … justifying their appeal by explaining that when a government takes a fundamentally illegal act and violates the Constitution, it is necessary to enter into rebellion and fight against him and stop him in his project,” Lambert said.

A member of the ‘Pitit Dessalin’ Party has threatened to set fire to all the electoral material, while sparing the buildings which house these offices, in particular schools.

Last week, the Bishops Conference of Haiti called on President Jovenel Moise to postpone the referendum as the country continues to be plagued by social and political unrest.

“In these difficult times in our history as a people, we hear the cries of our brothers and sisters, cries provoked by such terrible evils as the multiplication of heavily armed gangs that make the law and impose their diktats; violence in all its forms; kidnappings; insecurity that prevents free movement on the national territory; criminality; impunity; political instability; the deterioration of state structures; the high cost of living; the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Bishops said.

The Organization of American States had earlier agreed to send a five-member delegation to Haiti no later than mid-June to help broker an agreement allowing for the polls.

The OAS said that the mission will consist of the representatives of five member states, namely: Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the United States.