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07/04/2011 | Advice for Sweet Micky of Haiti

Editorial

The election of singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly as Haiti’s new president brings a welcome end to months of political paralysis.

 

Mr. Martelly – whose slick, digital campaign helped him win 68 per cent of the vote in the March 20 second round – must use his political capital to articulate a vision for this country of 8.7 million. The impoverished Caribbean nation is still trying to rebuild after the January, 2010 earthquake that flattened the capital, killed 300,000 people and left another one million homeless.

Mr. Martelly’s decisive victory over Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady, shows Haitians are so fed up with corruption and bad governance that they are willing to place their faith in a political rookie with a spotty past that includes crack and cocaine use. “Thank you for your confidence. I bloom for all my people,” his campaign has posted on Twitter.

And yet the challenges are immense. The 50-year-old entertainer best known for wild antics, including dropping his drawers on stage, must somehow morph into a statesman. His first priority will be to establish a working relationship with what some call the country’s “shadow government”: the more than 10,000 humanitarian organizations on the ground dispensing aid and services. Much of the $10-billion pledged by international donors has yet to be disbursed because of the country’s protracted leadership crisis, after the disputed first-round election in November. Many of Haiti’s displaced are still living in squalid tent cities, and the country has suffered a cholera outbreak.

To fulfill his electoral pledges – economic development, agricultural reform and a revival of the tourism sector – Mr. Martelly must reach out to the private sector, says Carlo Dade, executive director of the Canadian Foundation for the Americas, an Ottawa-based think-tank. He must win over an opposition-dominated Senate, and renew people’s faith in the state.

Most significantly, Mr. Martelly must avoid a cult of personality. This has been the downfall of many past leaders, including Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former president who recently returned to the country from exile. The new president must show he stands for both style and substance, and is more than just a kompa singer who connects with the young and disengaged.

The Globe and Mail (Canadá)

 


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Center for the Study of the Presidency
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