Singer 'Sweet Micky' Is Haiti's President-Elect
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
Coming up, as we contemplate a possible government shutdown by week's end, we look back at the last shutdown in 1995 to try to understand what it might be like. We'll be talking with Mike Causey. He used to write the Federal Diary column for The Washington Post and he's covered all things federal for many years. That is later.
But first, to Haiti, where election results are in. And it appears that singer Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly has won the presidency in a runoff against former first lady Mirlande Manigat. There is some opportunity for an appeal. That period ends on April 16th. But, as of now, it looks as though Sweet Micky Martelly will take over the presidency in May.
We wanted to know more so we've called, once again, Jacqueline Charles. She is the Caribbean correspondent for the Miami Herald. She joins us by phone from the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, where she's been covering elections. Jacqueline, thanks so much for joining us once again.
Ms. JACQUELINE CHARLES (Caribbean Correspondent, Miami Herald): Hi, thanks for having me.
MARTIN: What's the reaction like there on the streets? I mean, many people might remember that back in November, after the initial round of balloting, there were a lot of very angry people who said that the voting was marked by fraud and just utter chaos and people were very angry. What's it like there now?
Ms. CHARLES: Well, today I can tell you that it's the day after the election and people are just going about their daily lives. This is a huge change for Haiti, a country that has had a lot of problems in the past with elections. But last night there was an explosion, but it was an explosion of joy among Michel Martelly's supporters.
Many of them youth, 25 and 30-year-olds, who basically have up until this moment not really feel a sense of change or real hope that things are going to change for them in this country. And so, they expressed it after hearing the news yesterday evening by the election's council.
MARTIN: It's been reported that former first lady Manigat will challenge the results. But it's also been reported that Mr. Martelly's win was quite decisive. Is it - does it appear that his win was credible? Does it seem to be viewed as a mandate?
Ms. CHARLES: Well, let me tell you. I mean, Mirlande Manigat, former first lady, is giving a press conference this morning. And so, we're all waiting to see whether she's going to concede or whether or not she is going to move forward. The reality is is that in these elections as in the first round, there were, you know, (unintelligible) ballots. There was a process that was taken under (unintelligible). And so there is room for maneuvering. It's her right under the law, under electoral law.
As far as in terms of a mandate, I mean, that's also a matter of people looking at - yes, 67.5 percent is a huge win. But at the same time, this is an election that was marked by low turnout compared to 2006, when 50 percent of the voters went to the elected(ph). And so, for Michel Martelly as he takes office, this is something that he will have to be very much aware of, that there were a number of people, for one reason or another, did not go to the polls and vote.
And so while they may be unorganized, they are still there. And so, we will have to see, you know, does this truly turn into a huge mandate for him in terms of political capital that he does have today. How does he spend it? What does he do with it?
MARTIN: You'd written in your piece, one of your pieces of describing the election that, in fact, Martelly, even though he does not have any political experience, he's actually turned himself into a polished political performer. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
Ms. CHARLES: Yes. I mean, you know, for Haitians here, this guy has been a well-known Haitian musician, even more well-known than Wyclef Jean. Martelly's the one who introduced Wyclef Jean to the Haitian population. But for five months he underwent an image makeover.
When you met him, you know, he was not the provocative musician that people are used to dancing to at clubs, you know, in New York or Miami. He was the polished politician, Hugo Boss, you know, wearing. He spoke French and articulated himself well.
And that is where the buy-in came in. And that is one of the things that transformed him. First, people saw his candidacy as a joke. But as they started to meet Michel Martelly, they started to see, wow, wait a minute, this is somebody who is serious. And he managed to tap into the disillusioned youth, the people who wanted change. And so, he was able to combine both his stage persona, you know, "Sweet Micky," and also his new, you know, remade image.
Because one of the things that he did was he embraced this controversy, continuing to challenge journalists and everyone. He says, hey, I've lived my life on the public stage. Here it is. It's there for you to go and to dissect. Even though when you went on YouTube, a lot of his most provocative videos had either disappeared or couldn't be found.
MARTIN: Well, finally, in a minute or so you have left, tell us a little bit more about what he sees as his mission. What did he promise during the campaign? Has he set himself, say, 100-day's agenda? Or tell us a little bit more about what we can expect. Should his win be upheld after the period of appeal has ended?
Ms. CHARLES: Yes, he does have a transition team in place that has been working on his first 100 days. At the same time, the business community is also working on his 100 days for him as the new president. But on his campaign trail he promised a lot. And I think that that is where people have a little bit of concern in a country where you went from no promises to, you know, promises that I'm going to build, you know, 20,000 houses, you know, in a month, where I'm going to provide you free education.
The reality is Haiti's a country that's been wrecked by an earthquake, more than 70 percent unemployment and a $2 billion a year budget. You know, up until today the international community has not given much of the money that has promised. There has been very little in terms of direct budget support.
So the concern is that the people who have believed in this change, who believed that tomorrow their lives are going to transform, if this doesn't happen in six months, if it doesn't happen in 100 days or a year, what's going to happen?
Are they now going to say, down, you know, with Martelly as much as they were saying long live Martelly? I mean, this is a country - it's a strange country, but it's a country that's also unpredictable. And that is the reality that he faces today. That while he has promised so much, what is the ability to deliver that in the context, the reality of Haiti and its relationship with the United States and others in the international community?
MARTIN: Jacqueline Charles is the Caribbean correspondent for the Miami Herald. You can hear that she's in the thick of things. So we're going to let her get back to work. She's been covering events in Haiti, including the much anticipated results of the presidential runoff election. And she was with us by phone from Port-au-Prince. Jacqueline, thanks so much for joining us once again.
Ms. CHARLES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.