Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Haiti's New President Has Vision and Support of People but Lacks Experience

NPR: The Root: Haitians Wonder, What Happens Now?
Guardian.co.uk: Haiti Delays Certifying Election Results
FT: Haiti President-Elect Wins Clinton’s Backing
The Seattle Times: Michel Martelly Wins Haiti Election

The election of Michel Martelly as Haiti’s new President spurred celebration and joyous chant from thousands of Haitians nationwide. However, the road toward becoming Haiti’s new President was not an easy one. According to the the first round of run-off elections held in Haiti in November of last year, Martelly was not even one of the finalists. However amidst much voting confusion and allegations of fraud, the results of this initial run-off election were rescinded in Haiti. It had been anticipated that given Martelly’s popularity amongst the urban poor, that he would definitely emerge as a finalist in the first round of run-off elections. When the expectation of Haitian citizens to see Martelly as a finalist, did not come to pass, a nationwide insurgence followed. The level of violence and protest in the streets caused businesses to close as well as the Port-au-Prince airport. The response of Haiti’s electoral council was to cancel the results from the first run-off election, replace then finalist candidate Jude Celestin, with Michel Martelly and to reschedule a subsequent run-off election. The results of the second run off were known on April 4, 2011, with Martelly emerging as the new President of Haiti.

Although Martelly’s opposing candidate, Mirlande Manigat has stated that she will not contest the results of the election, Martelly’s assumption of office may be stalled by the Haitian election council, which has raised concerns about the results of those voted into senate seats. In a statement issued by the election council, they say they have seen no reason for the reversal of 18 legislative races in the election results. “Without a public explanation and review...the legitimacy of seating these candidates is in question.”

Despite the possible stall of formally taking office, Martelly has not allowed this hiccup in the senate election to prevent him from taking proactive measures toward the reconstruction of Haiti, something the country so desperately needs. As of today 750,000 people still remain homeless from the 2010 earthquake and are continuing to live in cholera ridden tent communities. In an effort to eliminate these and other pressing concerns of Haiti’s poor, Martelly has already met with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the American Development Bank in order to revamp efforts toward reconstruction. In doing so he has sought to assure foreign donors that following through on the pledges they made to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake, is still needed and will be handled appropriately and effectively. Martelly has also sought to improve Haiti’s investment conditions by increasing security measures and offering tax benefits to outside investors. Additionally Martelly is seeking to increase agricultural production so that Haiti can once again be a self-sustaining state.

Despite his lack of political expertise and questionable ability to push reforms through Congress, Haitians and United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have shown overwhelming support for Martelly. Some proponents of Martelly claim that it is exactly his lack of expertise and dealings in corrupt politics that have made him so popular with Haitian citizens. Haitians were tired of maintaining the status quo of presidents who cared more about catering to the demands of the upper class and had no connection to the plight of the poor. It is hoped that despite Martelly’s inexperience, his vision for the reconstruction of Haiti will finally usher in an era of economic and political stability for the country.

No comments: