Haiti: “Sweet Micky” Martelly will be “new driver in same vehicle”

On April 5, five days late, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced the preliminary results from the March 20 presidential and legislative runoff elections. According to the official count, popular singer Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky,” Peasant Response) defeated Mirlande Hyppolite Manigat (Coalition of National Progressive Democrats, RDNP) by 67.57% to 31.74% in the race for president. Turnout was reported at 23%, about the same as in the first round, on Nov. 28, although Martelly claims it was 30%. The CEP is to announce the final results on April 16, and the new president takes office on May 14.

Martelly is likely to have problems with the Parliament, which will be dominated by members of the Inite party of outgoing president René Préval. It appears that Inite will hold 17 of the 27 seats in the Senate and about 40 of the 99 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The rest will be divided among 16 other parties. Peasant Response, the party that ran Martelly for president, seems to have won just three seats in the Chamber and none in the Senate. (Radio Métropole, Haiti, April 7)

Both Manigat and Martelly are rightists, and Haitian grassroots and left-leaning organizations generally didn’t support either. “Now we’re waiting for Michel Martelly to keep his promises,” Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the founder of the large Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP), told the online news service AlterPresse, referring to the candidate’s promise to revitalize small-scale agriculture. But Osnel Jean-Baptiste, spokesperson for Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen (“Small Haitian Peasants Unity”), was already certain that “[t]here will be no change in the conditions of life of the popular masses.”

Martelly’s policy “will be a continuation of the options that have directed the country in recent years,” according to economist Camille Chalmers, executive director of the Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA). “Michel Martelly will be under the dictate of the international community.” Guy Numa, a member of the Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP), agreed that the main decisions will be made by the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC, or CIRH in French and Spanish), a group set up last year by donor nations to disburse and monitor international aid after a devastating earthquake. “This is just a change of drivers, but it’s still the same vehicle,” Numa said. (AlterPresse, April 6)

One difference between Martelly and current president Préval may be a more repressive approach to the Haitian media. During a televised debate with Manigat on March 9, Martelly complained that journalist Gotson Pierre, the founder of AlterPresse, “didn’t like” him. Pierre had asked embarrassing questions. (AlterPresse, March 16) On April 6 a group of people saying they were Martelly supporters were at the Parliament building to “watch” the journalists. “We’ll block access to Parliament to any journalist suspected of working against the interests of the next government,” one of them told a group of reporters. (AlterPresse, April 6)

Three journalists at Haiti National Television (TNH), Eddy Jackson Alexis, Josias Pierre and Jacques Innocent, were let go on April 5 after a courtesy visit to the station by Martelly. The journalists accused TNH director general Pradel Henriquez of favoring Martelly during the campaign; on April 8 Henriquez started defamation proceedings against them. (Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, April 8)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 10.

See our last post on Haiti.

“Sweet Micky”