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A SPECIAL SECTION: Haiti, Since the January 12, 2010 Fierce Earthquake

Posted Monday, April 3, 2011 

Singer Elected Haiti’s President, Official Says


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – One of Haiti’s most popular entertainers, a provocative Carnival singer previously best-known for disrobing and swearing on stage, has been elected president, a senior Haitian election official said Monday, placing him at the helm of a nation still struggling to recover from last year’s earthquake, a cholera epidemic and chronic poverty.

Swoan Parker/Reuters

Michel Martelly exited a polling station in Petionville on March 20. 

Lee Celano/Getty Images

United Nations troops from India put on protective gear near posters of Michel Martelly near the headquarters of the Provision Electoral Council in Petionville on Monday.

The singer, Michel Martelly, 50, known as “Sweet Micky” or Tet Kale (bald head), defeated Mirlande Manigat, 70, a college professor and former first lady with establishment credentials whose informal campaign slogan – “Give me my mother” – sought to contrast with Mr. Martelly’s image as the rebellious son trying to shake things up.

The final results, allowing for a period of appeals, are expected April 16. If the results hold up, Mr. Martelly will take office in May, after President René Préval, who could not seek another term under the constitution, steps down.

The streets were calm immediately after the announcement Monday afternoon, and United Nations peacekeepers had increased their patrols in anticipation of the type of civil disorder that greeted the initial results in December, after a first round of voting on Nov. 28 that was marred by fraud and disarray at the polls.

Supporters of Mr. Martelly took to the streets after initial results showed Ms. Manigat and the governing party’s candidate as the top vote getters, igniting days of violence that culminated in an international investigation of the results. That report eventually lead to a change in the ballot for the second round of voting last month, with Ms. Manigat and Mr. Martelly as the candidates.

Before the runoff, international observers had fretted the arrival of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former president who returned to the country two days before the voting after seven years of exile. They worried that his presence alone could disrupt the election or suppress turnout, and upon landing Mr. Aristide said he regretted the exclusion of his party, Fanmi Lavalas, which election authorities disqualified on a technicality. But Mr. Aristide has otherwise kept a low profile.

.A team of election observers from the Caribbean Community and Organization of American States said the runoff, while far from error or confusion free, had proceeded more smoothly than the initial round and the counting of ballots endured much more scrutiny for fraud and irregularities. That led to a four-day delay of the posting of preliminary results, which had been expected last Thursday.

With tens of thousands of people displaced by the quake still living in camps, only a fraction of the rubble cleared and more than 4,600 killed by cholera since the epidemic began in October, it appears Haitians believed only a political outsider like Mr. Martelly could change the country’s direction.

In the campaign, Mr. Martelly eschewed the skirts, underwear and other outlandish outfits of his musical career in favor of tailored suits and serious talk of reforming agriculture, streamlining the delivery of humanitarian aid and restoring law and order by bringing back the military, which was disbanded more than a decade ago after a history of human rights and political abuses.

Now, he faces the challenge of speeding the rebuilding of a country that, long before the quake, was the poorest in the Western Hemisphere and one if its most politically unstable.

Haiti is heavily reliant on foreign humanitarian aid, dispersed among hundreds of nongovernmental organizations that operate in effect as a shadow government. It also relies on United Nations peacekeepers for security.

In addition, Mr. Martelly will have to share power with a prime minister picked by Parliament, where Mr. Préval’s party is strong.

“Whoever the new president is, this presents massive challenges and profoundly circumscribes how much room they will have to maneuver and pursue new projects,” said Laurent Dubois, a Duke University professor who helps direct a team of scholars studying the recovery.

Mr. Martelly, in particular, faces high hurdles, lacking relations and in some cases raising suspicions from powerbrokers here.

“The ‘outsider’ status of Martelly has been important part of his self-presentation as a candidate,” Mr. Dubois said. “The question is whether, and in what ways, this might shape how he governs once in power.”

Both the Haitian government and international donors have acknowledged the slow pace of rebuilding, attributed mainly to bureaucratic delays and a lack of follow through on pledges of money.

Only about a quarter of the $5.3 billion pledged at a donors’ conference more than a year ago has been delivered, with Western diplomats saying several countries had grown frustrated with a lack of decision making in the Préval government and were counting on the next administration.

In the United States, members of Congress and the Obama administration have exchanged blame over delays in approving more than $1 billion in aid, now scheduled to be delivered this year.

Mr. Martelly will also have to contend with opposition in Parliament. It appears Mr. Préval’s Unity party has picked up a majority there, pending final results.

Vladimir Laguerre contributed reporting


Haiti musician Martelly wins election, official says

A woman walks through a damaged area in downtown Port-au-Prince Reuters – A woman walks through a damaged area in downtown Port-au-Prince March 21, 2011. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Singer and political outsider Michel Martelly is the winner of Haiti's presidential election, beating former first lady Mirlande Manigat, according to official preliminary results, a senior electoral council official said on Monday.

"Martelly won," the official at the Provisional Electoral Council, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

He gave no immediate numerical breakdown, speaking ahead of a public announcement due later on Monday to give the eagerly awaited first results from the March 20 run-off vote in the volatile Caribbean state, one of the poorest in the world.

The results are preliminary because they can be subjected to legal challenges which must be dealt with by the electoral council before it can declare them definitive later in April.

"Sweet Micky" Martelly, a shaven-headed 50-year-old with no previous government experience, had preached a forceful message of change, pledging to break with decades of past corruption and misrule and to bring a better life to Haitians struggling to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake.

His campaign tweeted the reports of his win. There was no immediate reaction from the Manigat camp.

As president, Martelly will face the huge challenge of trying to rebuild a small Caribbean country that was prostrated in poverty long before an earthquake killed more than 300,000 people and bludgeoned its fragile economy last year. Hundreds of thousands of destitute earthquake victims are still living in squalid tent and tarpaulin camps.

Anxious anticipation tinged with fears of violence had gripped the country since the preliminary results announcement was delayed from last week because of reported high levels of fraud.

Blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers were out patrolling the capital Port-au-Prince and other potential flashpoints. Some stores boarded up windows in anticipation of trouble.


The United Nations and donor governments including the United States which have pledged billions of dollars of reconstruction funds to Haiti want the election to produce a stable, legitimate leadership to take charge of the recovery.

The elections are choosing a successor to outgoing President Rene Preval and also new members of the parliament.

Analysts say the new president will have to deal with the intense pressure of the expectations of millions of Haitians who want jobs and a better life, among them hundreds of thousands of homeless quake survivors living in tent camps

Although both candidates, heeding earnest appeals from the international community, have restrained their supporters since the March 20 vote, many ordinary Haitians were wary that violence could follow the preliminary results announcement.

Nevertheless, the run-off last month passed off generally peacefully.

But in a country where calm streets can become transformed in seconds into battlegrounds of protesters and flaming tires, rumors have been swirling about threats to "burn the nation" and about machetes -- the long, curved cutlasses that are a traditional weapon of Haitians -- selling out at stores.

"If there is a clear winner, then there won't be any disputes," Robert Fatton, Jr., a Haiti expert and professor in the University of Virginia's Department of Politics, said.

"But if the vote is very close, then I think we may have in fact the possibility of serious trouble," he added.

The international community has worked to keep the Haitian elections on track through its U.N. peacekeeping mission and electoral observers and experts from the OAS and Caricom.

Backed by diplomatic pressure from Washington, these experts persuaded Haitian authorities to revise the disputed first round results to put Martelly -- originally placed third -- in the March run-off with Manigat, at the expense of a government-backed candidate dropped due to alleged fraud.

"I think what the international community wants is basically political stability," Fatton said.

With the INITE party of outgoing President Rene Preval expected to remain strong in parliament, the new Haitian leader will also have to manage a fractious political situation.

This has been stirred up further by the separate returns from exile this year of two former presidents, both previously ousted by revolts -- left-wing populist Jean-Bertrand Aristide and former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.

(Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

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