By Andre Paultre
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Tues. June 29, 2021 (Reuters) – Haiti will hold a constitutional referendum on Sept. 26, 2021, the same date as presidential and legislative elections, authorities said, after postponing the date twice in part because of the pandemic, an official calendar showed Monday.
Political tensions in the Caribbean nation have been running high in recent months and Haitians have expressed fear of violence going to the polls.
Violence has spiked in the capital Port-au-Prince in recent weeks as rival groups battle with one another or the police for control of the streets, displacing thousands and worsening the country’s humanitarian crisis.
Elections were scheduled for Sept. 19. Postponing the referendum was done to give the health ministry time to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, Guylande Mesadieu, the president of the electoral board said in an interview.
The electoral council said in a statement that the country will implement health measures to curb the spread of the pandemic so that Haitians could cast their votes safely.
Municipal and local elections have been scheduled for Jan. 16, 2022, the calendar also showed.
It is not clear what the constitutional referendum will entail but Moise has previously said the powers of the president needed to be strengthened to break a “decades-long cycle of political crises”.
The presidency was weakened in Haiti’s 1987 Magna Carta.
Haitians mistrusted strong figureheads in the wake of the Duvalier family dictatorship notorious for human rights abuses and corruption.
(Reporting by Andre Paultre in Port-au-Prince; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Stephen Coates)