Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


More than four months after presidential elections in Haiti, the country finally appears to have a new leader. Michel Martelly won 68 percent of the vote in a March 20th runoff according to preliminary results released last night.

Martelly has never held political office and just a year ago, the pop musician's campaign was considered by many Haitians to be a long shot at best, if not simply a publicity stunt or a joke. Now, Martelly is poised to lead a nation still struggling to recover from the 2010 earthquake.

And NPR's Jason Beaubien has this profile.

(Soundbite of music)

JASON BEAUBIEN: It won't be so hard for Michel Martelly to get used to being called president. As one of Haiti's most popular musicians, president has been one of Martelly's nicknames for years.

(Soundbite of music)

BEAUBIEN: Martelly's stage persona, Sweet Micky, had a reputation as the party boy of the Haitian music scene. The bald singer would perform in women's clothing. Sometimes he'd take to the stage in a diaper. At a campaign rally, Martelly, dressed in a formal business suit, explained that Sweet Micky, the entertainer, and Michel Martelly have always been two very different people.

Mr. MICHEL MARTELLY (President, Haiti): Sweet Micky was the drunk man on stage, crazy. But Michel Martelly went back home with the money. He took care of his family, sent his kids to college and is very satisfied with his life.

BEAUBIEN: He, however, wasn't satisfied with the election in November. While the polls were still open, Martelly and 11 other presidential candidates held a press conference to declare the voting a fraud. They said they wouldn't participate in the process.

Later, Martelly backed away from this stance when it became clear that he was one of the top vote-getters. Then, when election results were released in December stating that Martelly had been eliminated from the race, his followers rioted in the streets and shut down the Haitian capital for days.

(Soundbite of protesting)

BEAUBIEN: Richard Widmaier, the head of Radio Metropole in Port-au-Prince, said that even a few months earlier Martelly hadn't been viewed as a significant candidate in the race.

Mr. RICHARD WIDMAIER (Director General, Radio Metropole): The Martelly phenomena is quite interesting.

BEAUBIEN: Widmaier says Martelly rapidly managed to tap into Haitians deep frustration with the slow pace of the recovery from the January 2010 earthquake. And Martelly also repeatedly stressed that things were better in Haiti 20 years ago. By this, Widmaier says, Martelly is harking back to the era of the dictatorship of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.

Mr. WIDMAIER: He never used the word or name of Duvalier but always refers to the past, saying 20 years ago, our country was not like that. Now I want to send my son to the movie, I have to send him probably to the Dominican Republic or to Miami, because we don't have a cinema here in Haiti. So using these words, talking in this manner, I think the people can hear him and that's why he became so popular.

BEAUBIEN: At his campaign rallies, which often resembled rock concerts, the novice politician promised free education and to revitalize Haiti's stagnant economy. Haiti, however, has proved throughout history to be a tricky country to govern. There's a long list of former Haitian rulers who've been overthrown, assassinated, died mysteriously in office or forced into exile.

And Martelly will be taking over the country at a particularly difficult time. Much of the capital was destroyed in last year's earthquake, the cholera epidemic continues, and Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. In his coming term as president, Martelly may even look back nostalgically to his former career as a singer.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.