May 13, 2015 / 4:59 PM / 3 years ago

Wife of Haiti's president barred from running as Senate candidate

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Sophia Martelly, wife of Haiti’s president, Michel Martelly, has been barred from running for a Senate seat in legislative elections this August, Haiti’s electoral authority announced on Wednesday.

Sophia Martelly was born in New York and the National Bureau of Electoral Disputes determined she does not meet the citizenship requirements to run for office in Haiti.

She renounced her U.S. citizenship last year, but some of her opponents argued that by not filing for a Haitian passport when she was 18 she considered herself American only.

The announcement was posted on a wall at the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) and reported on local radio Wednesday morning.

“I appreciate the decision,” said Gerald Gilles, a former senator and candidate for the same Senate seat Martelly had hoped to run for in the West Department, which includes the capital, Port-au-Prince. “The CEP showed itself a credible organization. This is good news. It’s a sign that elections will happen,” he added.

Martelly and her husband have been the object of intense scrutiny and protest recently after a judge released two leaders of a drugs and kidnapping ring with ties to the Martelly family.

One of the ring’s leaders, who goes by the street name Sonson La Familia, is a close friend of Sophia Martelly’s brother.

Haiti’s legislative elections are years overdue and parliament had to be dissolved in January, when the terms of the lower House of Deputies expired, along with those of one third of the Senate.

Today, the Senate has just 10 of its intended 30 members, rendering it useless because it cannot field a quorum.

More than 2,000 candidates have registered to run for 20 Senate seats and 118 seats in the House of Deputies.

The presidential election to replace Michel Martelly, who is constitutionally barred from running for reelection, is scheduled for Oct. 25. If necessary a runoff will be held Dec. 27.

Registration of candidates for the presidential vote began on Monday.

Editing by David Adams; and Peter Galloway

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