Haiti Winner Claims Wider Vote Edge Than Reported
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Michel Martelly, the presumed president-elect of Haiti, said Wednesday that his landslide showing in an election runoff was actually stronger than was indicated by results released Monday. He said it pointed to a mandate that a “very weak” opposition needed to respect as he moved to rebuild the shattered country.
|DIEU NELIO CHERY/ASSOCIATED PRESS|
|Michel Martelly, the presumed president-elect, greeted supporters after a news conference in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.|
New Haitian Leader Pledges Reconciliation (April 6, 2011)
Although the election commission said Monday that he had won nearly 68 percent of the votes tabulated, defeating Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady and establishment figure, Mr. Martelly said in an interview that his “contacts” at the commission — “I am the president, so people are talking to me” — told him that he had actually won about 85 percent of the votes.
Mr. Martelly, a popular musician given to bombast on stage, suggested that many of the ballot sheets from voting precincts in his favor “were so high they decided they were false.” A commission spokesman did not respond to a message seeking a comment.
Mr. Martelly made the comments as he rejected the notion that a low turnout — 23 percent of voters by the commission’s count, 30 percent by Mr. Martelly’s and that of international observers — deprived him of the political capital needed to push through his intended reforms, including expanding education and housing.
Instead, he said, the low turnout reflected problems with voting registration and irregularities at voting centers, as well as the frustration with the political establishment that had propelled his victory.
“They are weak,” he said of the opposition, which could include the current governing party and its dominance of seats in the Parliament. “The people of Haiti want change. The opposition is part of what made us ask for change, so you can bring your expertise and assist us, but I don’t think the opposition has the power to stop the will of the people.”
Ms. Manigat said Tuesday that she lacked faith in the future of Haiti and she declined to say whether she would accept the election results before they were finalized April 16. Despite that, Mr. Martelly promised to “preach inclusion,” though he said he did not think opposition members should serve in his cabinet unless they were the best qualified for a position.
Without naming names, he said he would make a list of several choices for prime minister, who under the Constitution is the official responsible for administering the day-to-day affairs of state. He said he knew that “the first pick might not be the right pick or might not be accepted by the Parliament.”
He said “probably, some day” he would meet with a longtime rival, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the still popular former president whose return from a seven-year exile two days before the runoff election left the political world guessing about his intentions. Mr. Martelly, who is more conservative than Mr. Aristide, had profanely ridiculed him on stage in the past.
“As a singer in the past I may not have liked someone’s political views or actions, but as a leader, as a president, it is a responsibility for me to take care of every single Haitian,” Mr. Martelly said.
Mr. Martelly was interviewed in his campaign office, busy with people coming and going, including the United States ambassador, Kenneth Merten, who arrived midafternoon for a private meeting.
Mr. Martelly said he and members of his team were reaching out to international donors and aid groups, trying to determine a priority for a variety of backlogged projects and seeking to improve relations that might speed up aid.
The United Nations Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti reported Wednesday that of $4.6 billion pledged last year at an international conference for recovery projects, only about $1.7 billion, or 37 percent, had been distributed.
Mr. Martelly said he and his aides were studying how to make aid flow more quickly. He said they have already met with private- and public-sector investors to develop several thousand low-cost housing units. He also said he doubted the effectiveness of temporary housing for the estimated 600,000 people still displaced by the earthquake last year.
“We have wasted the time where we would have moved those people from the tent to a transitory unit and then to a home,” he said. “We have wasted that time.” He also stood by his plans to expand access to education and redevelop the agriculture industry, to encourage more farming and to decrease the flight from the countryside to the cities. “I will make it happen,” he said.
On Wednesday, President René Préval was at the United Nations, venting his own frustrations. He told the Security Council, The Associated Press reported, that the United Nations, through a series of interventions dating to 1993, had emphasized peacekeeping over development, which has “led to 11 years of military presence in a country that has no war.”
“Tanks, armed vehicles and soldiers should have given way to bulldozers, engineers, more police instructors,” Mr. Préval said. Mr. Martelly has called for an eventual phase-out of the peacekeepers and the re-establishment of Haiti’s armed forces.
Copyright 2011 The New York Times Company. Reprinted from The New York Times, International, of Thursday, April 7, 2011.