Haiti musician Martelly wins election, official says

PORT-AU-PRINCE, (Reuters) – Singer and political  outsider Michel Martelly is the winner of Haiti’s presidential  election, beating former first lady Mirlande Manigat, according  to official preliminary results, a senior electoral council  official said today.
“Martelly won,” the official at the Provisional Electoral  Council, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
He gave no immediate numerical breakdown, speaking ahead of  a public announcement due later on Monday to give the eagerly  awaited first results from the March 20 run-off vote in the  volatile Caribbean state, one of the poorest in the world.
The results are preliminary because they can be subjected  to legal challenges which must be dealt with by the electoral  council before it can declare them definitive later in April.
“Sweet Micky” Martelly, a shaven-headed 50-year-old with no  previous government experience, had preached a forceful message  of change, pledging to break with decades of past corruption  and misrule and to bring a better life to Haitians struggling  to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake.
His campaign tweeted the reports of his win. There was no  immediate reaction from the Manigat camp.
As president, Martelly will face the huge challenge of  trying to rebuild a small Caribbean country that was prostrated  in poverty long before an earthquake killed more than 300,000  people and bludgeoned its fragile economy last year. Hundreds  of thousands of destitute earthquake victims are still living  in squalid tent and tarpaulin camps.
Anxious anticipation tinged with fears of violence had  gripped the country since the preliminary results announcement  was delayed from last week because of reported high levels of  fraud.
Blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers were out patrolling the  capital Port-au-Prince and other potential flashpoints. Some  stores boarded up windows in anticipation of trouble.
The United Nations and donor governments including the  United States which have pledged billions of dollars of  reconstruction funds to Haiti want the election to produce a  stable, legitimate leadership to take charge of the recovery.
The elections are choosing a successor to outgoing  President Rene Preval and also new members of the parliament.
Analysts say the new president will have to deal with the  intense pressure of the expectations of millions of Haitians  who want jobs and a better life, among them hundreds of  thousands of homeless quake survivors living in tent camps
Although both candidates, heeding earnest appeals from the  international community, have restrained their supporters since  the March 20 vote, many ordinary Haitians were wary that  violence could follow the preliminary results announcement.
Nevertheless, the run-off last month passed off generally  peacefully.
But in a country where calm streets can become transformed  in seconds into battlegrounds of protesters and flaming tires,  rumors have been swirling about threats to “burn the nation”  and about machetes — the long, curved cutlasses that are a  traditional weapon of Haitians — selling out at stores.
“If there is a clear winner, then there won’t be any  disputes,” Robert Fatton, Jr., a Haiti expert and professor in  the University of Virginia’s Department of Politics, said.
“But if the vote is very close, then I think we may have in  fact the possibility of serious trouble,” he added.
The international community has worked to keep the Haitian  elections on track through its U.N. peacekeeping mission and  electoral observers and experts from the OAS and Caricom.
Backed by diplomatic pressure from Washington, these  experts persuaded Haitian authorities to revise the disputed  first round results to put Martelly — originally placed third  — in the March run-off with Manigat, at the expense of a  government-backed candidate dropped due to alleged fraud.
“I think what the international community wants is  basically political stability,” Fatton said.
With the INITE party of outgoing President Rene Preval  expected to remain strong in parliament, the new Haitian leader  will also have to manage a fractious political situation.
This has been stirred up further by the separate returns  from exile this year of two former presidents, both previously  ousted by revolts — left-wing populist Jean-Bertrand Aristide  and former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.

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