Bloody Clashes Break Out in Port-au-Prince as Haiti Is Left Without a President

Haiti's parliament has drafted an agreement for a caretaker government to be installed after the end of the president's term on Sunday, but the chaotic political situation has triggered unrest in the capital.
February 7, 2016, 6:35pm
Photo par Zachary Rockwood/VICE News

Haitian President Michel Martelly left office on Sunday with nobody waiting to take his place. The situation has created a power vacuum and triggered a wave of bloody clashes between angry protesters and police.

A runoff election to determine Martelly's successor was indefinitely postponed in December after irregularities in the intial round of voting. On Saturday, less than 24 hours before Martelly was scheduled to step down after serving his five-year term, Haiti's parliament drafted an agreement that allows itself to elect an interim president for a four-month term.

"Martelly will pass, but Haiti will remain," the president said in the third person as he delivered his resignation address on Sunday afternoon. "When you thought you were messing with Martelly, you were doing it to the country."

He ended his statement with "May God bless you and protect Haiti, Ayibobo," a Haitian Creole word that means "amen," or "hallelujah," before handing over his presidential sash to the chairman of the assembly in a symbolic gesture of relinquishing power.

Photo by Zachary Rockwood/VICE News

Martelly, a music star known as Sweet Mickey, was elected in May 2011, but could not seek reelection due to a rule in Haiti's constitution that prohibits the president from serving consecutive terms. Fraud and violence marred the first round of balloting to determine his replacement.

The chaotic political situation — coupled with poverty and other problems in the Caribbean nation — has sparked unrest in the capital Port-au-Prince. Protesters stoned a man to death on Friday, and VICE News saw hundreds of anti-Martelly demonstrators throwing rocks and chunks of concrete at police on Saturday. Police fired back with tear gas and made several arrests. UN peacekeeping forces protected the capital's main public square.

Related: Man Stoned to Death by Angry Protesters as Haiti's Political Crisis Intensifies

Outside the National Palace on Saturday, a mob attacked a man wearing a pink pro-Martelly wristband who walked into the protest by accident. His head was smashed with a chunk of concrete, and he poured blood as police carried him into a nearby truck.

A supporter of the outgoing president of — Simon Ostrovsky (@SimonOstrovsky)February 6, 2016

Haiti has not been able to establish a stable democracy after the fall of the Duvalier regime, and its political system has been marred by coups and rampant electoral fraud. Martelly has essentially ruled by decree since January 2015, and the country has failed to hold local or parliamentary elections.

Starting at around 1pm local time on Sunday, protesters held a massive demonstration outside the National Palace. Riot police tried to disperse the crowd — estimated at more than 1,000-strong — by launching tear gas.

1000s mass outside — Simon Ostrovsky (@SimonOstrovsky)February 7, 2016

VICE News' Tess Owen and __Atoosa Moinzadeh __contributed to this report