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Presidential Runoff Canceled in Haiti

A Haitian national police officer fires birdshot at demonstrators during a street protest after it was announced that the Jan. 24 runoff election had been postponed, in Port-au-Prince, Jan. 22, 2016.

Haitian electoral officials have abruptly canceled the presidential runoff election scheduled for Sunday, amid concerns of violence and fraud.

Pierre-Louis Opont, chairman of the Provisional Electoral Council, said Friday that the vote had been pushed back because of "security concerns."

In the capital, Port-au-Prince, several thousand demonstrators cheered after hearing the vote would be postponed. But the protests soon turned violent, prompting police to fire at the crowds. It was unclear whether anyone had been hurt or killed.

Opont did not name a new date for the election. It also was unclear whether an interim government will take power after February 7, when President Michel Martelly is required to leave office under the constitution, or whether he will remain in his post until a replacement is elected.

Opposition candidate Jude Celestin vowed this week to boycott the election, alleging a first-round vote in October was rigged to favor the ruling-party candidate.

Recent opposition-stoked protests in Port-au-Prince have ramped up the tension, with partisans throwing rocks and street barricades being set ablaze.

There's been growing concern that a flawed runoff might push the perennially volatile country of 10 million people to the edge of tumult, rolling back a decade of relative political stability and putting the brakes on foreign investment.