Michel Martelly, otherwise known as kompa star “Sweet Micky,” was declared the winner of the Haiti’s presidential election according to preliminary results released by the Provisional Electoral Council yesterday. Martelly, 50, received 68 percent of the vote in the March 20 runoff, besting constitutional law professor and former first lady Mirlande Manigat.
While he is best known for his carnival music, on-stage antics and profanity, Martelly reinvented himself during the campaign as a clean-cut, antiestablishment politician focusing on reforming education and agriculture and streamlining delivery of $18 billion in promised humanitarian aid. His image as political outsider makes him popular among Haiti’s poor, but Martelly will have to court the Haitian elite to guarantee political support of his policies.
The likely next president is already ruffling some feathers among the upper crust with his plan to reinstate the Haitian Armed Forces that was disbanded by former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1995. Martelly will face the challenge of sharing power with a prime minister chosen by Haiti’s parliament, where incumbent president René Préval’s INITE party holds significant sway.
Though preliminary results show that Martelly won by a landslide, Manigat will have a chance to appeal the preliminary results before the official numbers are announced on April 16. If the results stand, Martelly will be sworn in as Haiti’s 44th president of Haiti in May and face the daunting task of rebuilding a weakened public sector in a country currently dominated by nongovernmental organizations.
United States officials asked former president of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide, to delay his return to the country until after the March 20 elections amid fears that his presence will influence voters. President Aristide has been living in exile in South Africa since his removal from office in 2004. U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner stated in comments yesterday that the decision to allow Mr. Aristide to return was up to Haitian authorities but warned that his return before the election could be “destabilizing” and “could only be seen as a conscious choice to impact Haiti’s elections.” Mr. Aristide’s lawyer, Ira Kurzban, has echoed the U.S. State Department’s sentiment that the former president’s return be left up to the Haitian authorities while noting that Mr. Aristide wishes to return to Haiti to dedicate himself to education and not to politics.
Speculation of Mr. Aristide’s return to Haiti has increased since the return of another exiled former Haitian leader, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, to Haiti on January 16, 2011, after 25 years of living in exile in France. U.S. authorities have appealed to the South African government to delay Mr. Aristide’s departure from the country. However, South African deputy foreign minister Marius Fransman stated today that it was not “our responsibility to say if Jean-Bertrand Aristide should or should not leave South Africa before the election” while noting that the Haitian government has cleared the way for Aristide’s return by issuing him a passport this past February.
Both presidential candidate’s in this weekend’s run-off, Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly, or “Sweet Micky” as he is more popularly known, have no objections to Mr. Aristide’s return. Meanwhile, Mr. Aristide remains a divisive figure in Haitian politics and still retains some support, especially among Haitian living in slums and tent cities where the since the January 2010 earthquake, where people have become frustrated with the slow pace of recovery.