The people have spoken and chosen singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly as the next president of Haiti.
Preliminary run-off election results released last night show Martelly as the clear winner, having gotten 67 percent of votes over opponent (and former first lady) Mirlande Manigat.
The announcement was greeted with fireworks as fans spontaneously paraded in the streets carrying Martelly’s pink posters and beeping car horns.
Supporters ran in front of elections headquarters singing, “Martelly, the country is for you. Do what you like with it.’’
Others sang “Tet Kale,” the bald-headed one, Martelly’s moniker during the campaign.
“The country is sweet, now. Change is coming,’’ said Louis Viccues, 42, who works at a dry cleaner. “Nothing is worse than to be living in a country and working, and you cannot eat.’’
The people’s happiness doesn’t mean Martelly’s win won’t be challenged.
After The Miami Herald first reported the results Monday, Manigat’s campaign sent a letter to the justice minister accusing Electoral Council President Gaillot Dorsinvil of influencing the results during a late Sunday night visit to the vote tabulation center.
Even with the challenge, Haiti’s streets remained free of violence that the international community had feared if Martelly had lost. Although there had been a perception for weeks that Martelly had won, his campaign was unsure of the outcome even as advisors put him through governance tutorial courses and met to map out the transition.
The news of Martelly’s win was met with cheers and disbelief by Haitians here and abroad who both embraced and rejected his presidential bid, a well-financed modern campaign complete with foreign consultants and live Twitter and Internet feeds.
For some, the victory is a “rupture’’ with the last 25 years that have governed Haiti after the fall of the 29-year Duvalier family dictatorship. Others see more of the same as a political novice leads a nation struggling to dig out from the devastation of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, deal with a deadly cholera epidemic and drastically improve conditions for the country’s 10 million citizens.
“While Martelly is indeed a new leader, the structure of economic power remains the same and the old problems have not disappeared. In fact, the key players of yesterday have not vanished’’ said Robert Fatton, a Haiti expert at the University of Virginia who has been following the elections since last year. “Despite his dramatic eruption, Martelly may well be a case of ‘old wine in a new bottle,’ but time will tell.’’
Still, Martelly’s ride from dark horse to the broken national palace is viewed as a vote against outgoing President René Préval, and the country’s traditional political class that have failed to provide economic and social progress over the past 25 years. The lack of progress in improving the population’s condition after the earthquake only intensified the anti-Préval and anti-status quo feeling among voters.
The official election results will be announced on Saturday.