A leading political party in Haiti announced on Tuesday that it was pulling out of next month’s legislative elections, saying it was the primary victim of violence during the first round of voting in August.
It was not immediately clear whether the pullout would disrupt the second-round runoff on Oct. 25, when Haitians are also due to cast ballots for a new president.
But the move was seen as another setback for stability in the impoverished Caribbean country, long rocked by political turmoil.
The Vérité (Truth) Party, which announced its boycott of the upcoming poll, is widely seen as a leading political threat to President Michel Martelly’s Haitian Tet Kale (Bald Headed) Party, which takes its name from Martelly’s trademark shaved scalp.
It cited violent attacks on polling stations in the capital of Port-au-Prince and about 50 of 1,500 voting centers around the country on election day on Aug. 9 as the reason it was withdrawing from the next round.
Party leaders have been seething, however, ever since an earlier decision by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to strike Vérité presidential candidate Jacky Lumarque from the October ballot.
Lumarque, the rector of Quisqueya University, one of the country’s top educational institutions, was barred from the presidential race when the CEP determined he did not have the legal document, known as a “discharge,” required of public officials to show they did not misuse public money while in office.
Lumarque was a member of a presidential commission on education under former President Rene Préval. His supporters say he did not distribute any money and thus did not need a discharge.
Haiti’s highest court, the Court of Auditors, agreed but the CEP still moved to sideline Lumarque from the presidential contest.
He had been seen as a top contender for the presidency, alongside Jovenel Moise of Martelly’s Tet Kale. Martelly himself cannot run for re-election.
Haiti’s parliament dissolved in January after scheduled legislative elections in 2011 and 2014 were canceled. Since January, the 119-member Chamber of Deputies has sat empty and the Senate, with only 10 of its 30 members, has failed to hold a quorum.