On 15 March, the Haitian government announced a timetable for presidential and legislative elections.
Voting for a third of the 30 seats in the Senate as well as local officials has been delayed for over three years. In January, the terms of 10 of the remaining 20 senators, as well as all 99 lower house deputies, expired, leaving President Michel Martelly to rule by decree. Martelly has vowed to only use his powers of decree to organise the elections.
Failure to hold the delayed elections has contributed to large-scale civil unrest across the country, often involving thousands of protestors in Haiti’s main cities. According to local media reports, two protests in March led by groups including the Democratic Opposition Patriotic Movement (Mouvement Patriotique de l’Opposition Démocratique) and the Patriotic Force for Respect of the Constitution (Force Patriotique pour le Respect de la Constitution: FOPARK), who have been at the forefront of the protest movement, have only attracted several hundred people.
Road blocks using debris and burning tyres are common, as are violent confrontations between protesters and national police and UN peacekeepers. During such incidents, protesters will often use Molotov cocktails and other projectiles as well as set vehicles on fire; the security forces typically respond with tear gas and, on rare occasions, live ammunition. The political crisis resulting from the delayed elections and the escalation of protests in late 2014 led to the resignation of Former prime minister Laurent Lamothe in January.
Separately, Martelly has vowed to only use his decree powers to organise elections, meaning legislative initiatives, including a new mining code designed with the support of the World Bank, are stalled until Congress can reconvene. Martelly is barred from serving consecutive terms.
Legislative elections will be held on 9 August, with a second round held in conjunction with local and presidential elections on 25 October. The announcement of firm election dates will probably dampen anti-government protests, which have reduced in intensity since a peak in the final months of 2014.