President-elect Michel Martelly Promises “A New Era” in Haiti

By Dialogo
April 11, 2011

On 5 April, Michel Martelly promised the arrival of “a new era” in Haiti, the day after his victory in the presidential election, but his rival, Mirlande Manigat, said that she was “indignant” about the result of the balloting.

“People of Haiti, a new era has begun,” the 50-year-old former pop singer declared during his first press conference as president-elect. “I’m proud of having been called to serve my country. I, the bad boy, have received your trust.”

“You’ve decided to entrust me with the country, in order to bring it to a safe harbor, to leave aside the old demons and the old quarrels of Haitian politics in order to lead the country in a different way. I want to work with everyone; I’m the president of all Haitians, without exceptions,” he insisted.

Michel Martelly, much better known until recently by his stage name of “Sweet Micky,” won the presidential election with 67.57% of the vote, compared to 31.74% for his rival, academic Mirlande Manigat, according to preliminary results from the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), announced on the evening of 4 April.

“I love my country, I love Haiti, but I’m legitimately indignant,” Manigat affirmed from her campaign office, although she did not clearly say whether she is going to contest the results.

“I will keep fighting,” promised the former first lady, who complained of electoral paralysis.

The CEP announced last week that the voting on 20 March was tarnished by fraud and that hundreds of returns submitted by various polling places had been annulled.

Definitive results will be announced only on 16 April, following a period during which both candidates may submit appeals, as Martelly did after the first round on 28 November.

In a historical irony, the singer had been relegated to third place, behind the ruling-party candidate, Jude Célestin. His supporters held violent demonstrations throughout the country before the Electoral Council approved him to go on to the second round.

The international community expressed its satisfaction with the conduct of the second round, which contrasted with the chaos of the first.

The United States greeted “the people of Haiti” as they “move forward to rebuild their country,” while France paid homage to “the patience and maturity of the Haitian people, who clearly showed their respect for the electoral process.”

The European Union also welcomed the results: “This is an important step (…) and should lead to greater political stability,” said the chief EU diplomat, Catherine Ashton, who is from Great Britain.

“The European Union will continue to support Haiti in its endeavors to promote democracy and the rule of law and further the process of reconstruction,” she added.

As René Preval’s successor, Martelly will head a government reduced in size following the devastating earthquake of 12 January 2010, without a majority in Parliament, and threatened by instability because of the return of exiled former presidents Jean Bertrand Aristide and Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier.

“The fact that there’s no majority in Parliament could give Martelly the possibility of maneuvering as he likes,” AFP was told by Robert Fatton, a professor of political science at the University of Virginia (in the eastern United States) and a specialist in Haiti.

“The problem is that we don’t have any idea of his capacity to confront this kind of political challenge,” he added. “We don’t have any precedents. This guy is totally new, and his party is almost non-existent in terms of representation in Parliament.”

“His first priority is forming a government. After that, he will need to manage all Haiti’s problems: reconstruction, displaced populations, security.”

The current president, René Preval, will turn over power to Martelly on 14 May, since his presidential term, which was to end in February, was extended by Parliament because of the electoral uncertainty.