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In photos: Haitians react to presidential poll

Fears of further post-election violence prove unfounded as preliminary results show popular singer Michel Martelly takes two-thirds of vote.

Image: www.seanandyvette.com via Haven

A 50-YEAR-OLD POP STAR nicknamed ‘Sweet Micky’ has topped the poll in Haiti’s presidential election run-off, quelling fears of further election-related violence.

Le Nouvelliste reports that Micky Martelly took 67.57% of the vote, according to preliminary results released by the country’s Provisional Electoral Council (PEC) yesterday evening.

Tensions were high ahead of yesterday evening’s announcement, prompting the US to send additional troops to Gonaives in the north-west for fear Martelly’s supporters would follow through with their threats of protest and violence if his rival, former first lady Mirlande Manigat, was declared the victor.

Post-polling suspicions

November’s elections have been plagued by allegations of fraud since before polls closed. PEC initially announced that Manigat would be running against ruling party candidate Jude Celestin – widely considered current president René Préval’s chosen successor – in the two-candidate run-off in March. Martelly came third.

Following public outcry and international pressure, Celestin’s inclusion was revised and the council announced that Martelly would replace him in the run-off. The switch damaged PEC’s reputation among Haitians, who now suspect the commission was manipulated either before or after the changed result, and are distrustful of future results.

Despite their similar right-leaning policies and campaign pledges to change Haiti’s political system and bolster education, the two candidates could not be more different. Sorbonne-educated Manigat, 70, was Haiti’s first lady for just a few months in the late 1980s before her husband was ousted in a coup.

Martelly is well-known in Haiti for his on-stage antics and bright pink clothing and is seen by his many supporters as a man of the people, keen on changing Haitian politics and encouraging the public to get involved in that change.

In Latanerie, Gonaives, locals seemed apathetic yesterday morning about which candidate would be the better choice for the country. There isn’t much difference between the two, Dieufort Joseph told TheJournal.ie, but hopefully whoever wins will learn from the mistakes of past presidents.

Fervil Dieullette, a 36-year-old mother of six who lives in a one-room corrugated steel shack, said she just wants whoever wins to make a difference in Haiti; “life is very difficult at the moment”, she said.

Haitian community development officer with Irish charity Haven Farah Dorisme says that no president can make much of an impression without the support of the senate: “Willing to be president is one [thing], but having the power to change stuff, it’s another one.” The senate has been dominated by outgoing president Préval’s party.

Real change takes longer than a presidential term anyway, Dorisme added.

Overshadowed

Since the New Year, the elections have been overshadowed by the return of two former leaders. Jean Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier returned after 25 years in exile in January.

Former dictator Duvalier was arrested at his hotel in Port-au-Prince on suspicion of committing fraud during his presidential term and remains under house arrest. Baby Doc succeeded his father ‘Papa’ Doc in 1971; both are remembered for their brutal private army, the Tonton Macoutes.

“A lot of people think it’s a good idea [their return] but some didn’t care – like me,” Dorisme said. ”Others would say, ‘no, we prefer them to stay where they were’ because they think they could have some control on the actual government.”

If confirmed Haiti’s new president in the final result on 16 April, Martelly faces enormous challenges, including the mass rebuilding of quake-struck capital Port-au-Prince, the continued recovery from the 2004 and 2008 hurricanes, and a cholera epidemic. A recent study by Harvard Medical School suggested that number infected could hit twice the 400,000 cases originally estimated, by the end of November 2011.

Susan Ryan is reporting from Haiti with the charity Haven

In pictures: portraits of Haiti

In photos: Haitians react to presidential poll
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All images courtesy of www.seanandyvette.com

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Susan Ryan in Haiti

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