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PORT-AU-PRINCE: The United States on Friday accepted unpopular Haitian President Jovenel Moise’s claim to hold power for another year but urged restraint and fresh elections.

Moise has been governing without any checks on his power for the past year and says he remains president until February 7, 2022 — in an interpretation of the constitution rejected by the opposition which has led protests that assert that term ends Sunday.

“We’ve urged the government of Haiti to organize free and fair legislative elections so that parliament may resume its rightful role,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington.

In line with the position of the Organization of American States, the United States believes that “a new elected president should succeed President Moise when his term ends on February 7, 2022,” Price said.

But the United States, which is Haiti’s biggest donor, warned that the government should exercise restraint until the elections take place.

Decrees should be reserved for the “power to schedule legislative elections and for immediate threats to life, health and safety until the parliament is restored and can resume its constitutional responsibilities,” Price said.

Voting to elect deputies, senators, mayors and local officials should have been held in 2018 but the polls have been delayed, triggering the vacuum in which Moise says he is entitled to stay for another year.

In a letter to the UN mission in Haiti, a dozen or so human rights and women’s advocacy groups faulted it for providing technical and logistical support for the president’s plans to hold a constitutional reform referendum in April, then presidential and legislative elections later in the year.

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