Haiti faces growing crisis as election chief resigns

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The opposition has staged repeated demonstrations to protest October's first round election results

The opposition has staged repeated demonstrations to protest October's first round election results (AFP Photo/Hector Retamal)

Port-au-Prince (AFP) - The chairman of Haiti's electoral council has submitted his resignation to President Michel Martelly, a week after presidential and legislative elections were indefinitely delayed.

Pierre-Louis Opont said in a letter dated Thursday that events beyond his control had "prevented me from carrying out my mission, which was to conduct elections meant to permit Parliament to return on January 11, 2016 and an elected president to be installed on February 7, 2016."

Opont's resignation, following that of four of nine other members of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), renders the panel impotent.

More than a dozen electoral offices in the Haitian provinces were torched or attacked late Thursday or early Friday.

On January 22, less than 48 hours before polling places were set to open for a second round of presidential and partial legislative elections, the head of the CEP had announced their indefinite postponement, citing "obvious security concerns."

That delay prevented the CEP from pursuing an electoral process already deeply decried by the opposition and civil society groups.

In the first round of presidential voting on October 25, the ruling party's candidate, Jovenel Moise, officially won 32.76 percent of the vote, to 25.29 percent for Jude Celestin, who denounced those results as "a ridiculous farce."

In the two months since, the opposition has staged repeated demonstrations to protest the results.

The new cancellation plunges Haiti into uncertainty and risks leaving a power vacuum on February 7.

Thirty years after the end of the Duvalier dictatorship, Haiti is still struggling to organize uncontested elections and overcome the apathy of a disaffected populace.