Controversial Haitian referendum postponed

A controversial constitutional referendum on Haiti’s political system scheduled for today has been postponed indefinitely. President Jovenel Moise has ruled

Haitian President Jovenel Moise

Photo: AP

A controversial constitutional referendum on Haiti’s political system scheduled for today has been postponed indefinitely.

President Jovenel Moise has ruled the Caribbean nation by decree since contested presidential elections in 2018, though political instability has heightened since February over a further dispute over the conclusion of his term. The proposed changes essentially seek to take power away from parliament and give it to the president, including immunity from prosecution and control of the Armed Forces.

The referendum’s underlying controversy stems from President Moise’s blockage of public debate on the proposed changes, having shut out input from civil society groups and opposition parties. While Moise’s critics agree that some constitutional change is needed for political stability, they do not trust the President to facilitate it.

If another referendum date is set, expect opposition voters to boycott and mass protests to escalate. Even though Moise announced he will step-down in February 2022 after scheduled September elections, the opposition will view the poll an attempt to swing power towards an appointed successor. However, more ominously for Moise, the US—a key supporter of his—will almost certainly oppose any new constitutional vote, emboldening opposition supporters further.

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