'Sweet Micky' becomes new president of Haiti

The popular carnival musician enjoys a landslide victory but now must convince elite to help him repair a broken country

A musician who has never held political office has won a landslide victory in Haiti's prolonged presidential election.

Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly took almost 68 per cent of the vote in a run-off against former first lady Mirlande Manigat, according to the preliminary election results.

The announcement on Monday night sparked wild celebrations among Mr Martelly's supporters, many of whom come from the poorest areas of Haiti and are hoping political change will bring them jobs and security. Supporters cheered in the streets in their thousands with some firing celebratory shots into the air with automatic rifles.

Four months ago Mr Martelly looked to be out of the running after coming third, and thus being eliminated in the first-round poll to decide the run-off candidates. But with widespread suspicions of vote-fixing, his supporters took to the streets and brought the country to a virtual halt.

An investigation by pro-democracy group the Organisation of American States concluded he had been cheated of second place and, after further political wrangling, he was allowed to take his place in the presidential head-to-head with Mrs Manigat on 20 March.

Mr Martelly has had to reinvent himself during the campaign to convince voters he was a candidate worthy of being president of the troubled Caribbean nation, which is still struggling to recover from last year's earthquake that left 300,000 people dead.

As a musician he was a household name for playing compas, Haitian carnival music, but his on-stage antics of wearing nappies or dresses and mooning to his audience won him a "bad boy" reputation that opponents tried to capitalise on.

During the campaign he hired an international consultancy from Spain to help him transform from "Sweet Micky" to a credible presidential candidate, but much of his appeal is thought to have come from the fact he was a political outsider.

Just as important, he is charismatic and much of his support from the Haitian poor was owed to his willingness well before he was a candidate to engage with the people of the slums. Once declared as a candidate he showed the common touch by holding rallies in the settlement camps where hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by the earthquake still live.

He has yet to speak publicly about the preliminary election result – the final declaration will be made on 16 April after protests and complaints have been assessed – but he tweeted: "We're going to work for all Haitians. Together we can."

It remains unclear how effective Mr Martelly will be. Among the challenges he faces is having to confront a Senate and Chamber of Deputies that are controlled by supporters of the outgoing president, René Preval. It was Mr Preval's preferred choice of presidential heir, Jude Celestin, who originally took second place in the December poll that left Mrs Manigat, a university law professor whose husband Leslie was ousted in a 1988 coup, in first place and Mr Martelly in third.

Mr Martelly will also want to convince the business elite and wealthy Haitians who were behind Mrs Manigat to help him lay the foundations for a stable economy and to create the jobs and industry that will allow the country to recover from the earthquake and end the abject poverty.

The results were announced by Haiti's election council, which said turnout was about 23 per cent. Serge Audate, an elections official, said possible fraud was indicated in about 15 per cent of votes, with some having to be discounted.

The US embassy in Haiti welcomed the preliminary result as "another important milestone as the people of Haiti move forward to rebuild their country".

The challenges facing Michel Martelly

Rebuilding Haiti

What's the problem?

Even if much of the world's attention has moved on, Haiti is still in ruins from last year's earthquake. Some 680,000 people are still living in camps and most of the rubble has yet to be cleared.

What's the solution?

An enormous logistical operation that will require rebuilding institutions and persuading foreign donors that the Haitian government can be trusted to administer the money.

Can Martelly do it?

As an outsider with little experience of government, he may be able to persuade donors that he can start afresh. But there may also be hesitation about putting faith in an unknown quantity.


What's the problem?

With at least 4,700 dead and hundreds of thousands more affected, the disease has added a huge weight to the country's attempts to recover.

What's the solution?

The answer is again logistical – getting people water purification tablets and maintaining clean water supplies. Otherwise, with the rain and hurricane season looming, there are fears of another epidemic.

Can Martelly do it?

He has been criticised for not producing a comprehensive plan to fight the spread of the disease. With another outbreak threatening he will need to act quickly to disprove that idea.


What's the problem?

Even before the earthquake, Haiti faced the worst poverty in the western hemisphere. High food prices could mean that the country's poorest people will face severe shortages until the June harvest.

What's the solution?

Government subsidy would help, as would a gradual increase in reserves. Fishermen will hope the government can help to rebuild confidence in their fish after the cholera outbreak hit sales.

Can Martelly do it?

He campaigned as a representative of the poor and offered free education and more jobs. But it remains to be seen whether he can find economic policies to make those promises viable.


What's the problem?

It's a complex picture, with two ousted presidents – Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier – returning to the country. Their influence could undermine government unity.

What's the solution?

Neither Aristide nor Duvalier interfered during the campaign, but to underpin his authority, Martelly must build on his popular victory with rapid social and economic progress.

Can Martelly do it?

He owes neither man, nor any of Haiti's entrenched elites, the kind of loyalty that more seasoned political figures might. But his inexperience will cost him in the public calculus if he finds himself opposed by such old hands.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world