Haiti leader vows to hold polls if forced to rule by decree

Haiti President Michel Martelly talks during a bilateral meeting with the European Union president at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on February 25, 2014 (AFP Photo/John Thys) (AFP/File)

Paris (AFP) - Haiti's President Michel Martelly vowed Sunday to call elections early next year if a political impasse that saw long-delayed polls postponed last week forces him to rule by decree.

The impoverished country's government announced last Sunday that it was postponing legislative elections that were already three years overdue because the National Assembly failed to pass an electoral law in time.

The mandates of members of the already depleted assembly expire on January 12 next year, and a failure to hold elections by then will create a political vacuum that will give Martelly the power to rule by decree.

"It's up to institutions to do their job," Martelly told French radio and television on a trip to France, slamming a "blockage" in parliament.

"One power that I don't have is to force parliament to vote... Once we will get to a dysfunction, my first decision will be to convene elections," he said, referring to the January deadline after which he could rule by decree.

The suspension of the October 26 elections sparked protests in Port-au-Prince by angry would-be voters calling for Martelly's resignation.

Two opposition activists who had called the protest were arrested by police for "public unrest and inciting violence".

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake, has struggled with a difficult post-colonial legacy, corrupt rule, civil unrest, environmental degradation and natural disaster.