Michel Martelly

Michel Martelly, a performer with the stage name Sweet Micky, was elected president of Haiti in a runoff election held in March 2011.

He defeated Mirlande H. Manigat, a former first lady and college administrator who was the top vote getter in the initial round of voting in November 2010.

The November election, marred by fraud and incompetence, was just the beginning of an opaque process that included delayed results, contentious protests by Mr. Martelly’s supporters, a review by international observers, and finally a reversal by election officials that put Mr. Martelly in the runoff by discarding a government-backed candidate.

Before his election Mr. Martelly was one of Haiti’s most popular singers and performers, perhaps best known for his raunchy Carnival act. After the Haitian-born hip-hop star Wyclef Jean was denied permission to run, Mr. Martelly cast himself as just the outsider Haiti needed, punctuating his campaign appearances with songs.

With tens of thousands of people displaced by the 2010 earthquake still living in camps, only a fraction of the rubble cleared and more than 4,600 killed by cholera since the epidemic began in October, it appears Haitians believed only a political newcomer like Mr. Martelly could change the country’s direction.

In the campaign, Mr. Martelly eschewed the skirts, underwear and other outlandish outfits of his musical career in favor of tailored suits and serious talk of reforming agriculture, streamlining the delivery of humanitarian aid and restoring law and order by bringing back the military, which was disbanded more than a decade ago after a history of human rights and political abuses.

Now, he faces the challenge of speeding the rebuilding of a country that, long before the quake, was the poorest in the Western Hemisphere and one if its most politically unstable.

Haiti is heavily reliant on foreign humanitarian aid, dispersed among hundreds of nongovernmental organizations that operate in effect as a shadow government. It also relies on United Nations peacekeepers for security.

In addition, Mr. Martelly will have to share power with a prime minister picked by Parliament, where the party of his predecessor, Rene Préval, is strong.

Source: University Programs and Events Planning Resources, September 2011