Novice Politician, Pop Star Haiti's President-To-Be Michel Martelly, who is also known as Sweet Micky, has never before held political office. A year ago, the pop musician's campaign was considered by many Haitians to be a long shot, a publicity stunt or a joke. Now Martelly is poised to lead a nation still struggling to recover from the 2010 earthquake.
NPR logo

Novice Politician, Pop Star Haiti's President-To-Be

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/135152007/135153417" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Novice Politician, Pop Star Haiti's President-To-Be

Novice Politician, Pop Star Haiti's President-To-Be

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/135152007/135153417" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

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.

MICHEL MARTELLY: 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: 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.

RICHARD WIDMAIER: 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.

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: Jason Beaubien, NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.