Haiti's pop star president takes the helm
Port-au-Prince - Michel Martelly, a Haitian popular singer known by the stage name "Sweet Micky", was officially declared the earthquake-devastated country's next president, election officials said on Wednesday.
A spokesperson for Haiti's electoral commission, Pierre Thibault, said Martelly won the presidency with 67.57% of the vote, defeating rival candidate Mirlande Manigat.
The announcement ends a long, drawn-out election that began on November 28 and was marred by fraud and other irregularities, several days of rioting and numerous delays.
After election officials released preliminary results on April 6 showing that Martelly, aged 50, defeated his opponent with nearly 68% of the vote, Manigat said she wouldn't contest the results.
Since then, Martelly has spoken about the need for reconciliation in this bitterly divided nation as he's sought to put together a transition team. On the campaign trail, he called for free education for all children, a renovation of the agricultural sector, and the restoration of the disbanded army.
Martelly, a master of Haiti's compas music before he became a presidential candidate, is scheduled to be inaugurated on May 14.
Preval majority in senate
As Haiti's newly elected president, Martelly faces enormous challenges. He will be tasked with leading multibilliondollar reconstruction efforts after a magnitude-7 earthquake last year claimed 300 000 lives, housing hundreds of thousands of displaced quake survivors, and stemming a deadly cholera epidemic.
Election officials also released final results for legislative elections held at the same time, showing that the political party of outgoing President Rene Preval has a majority in the Senate. This could prove to be another hurdle for Martelly, for Parliament must approve his pick for prime minister.
On the same day that Haitian officials announced the final results, Martelly met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as part of a three-day visit to Washington. He said he spoke with Clinton about his three priorities: Education, finding homes for people living in tents and restarting Haiti's agricultural sector.
In a news conference, Martelly admitted he had "huge challenges" ahead of him. He called reconstruction efforts "despairingly slow". He also stressed the need to tackle the cholera epidemic that has claimed more than 4 700 lives since October. He warned that the coming hurricane season could spread the disease countrywide.
Clinton said she welcomed Martelly as president.
"Now he has a chance to lead, and we are behind him," said Clinton, Martelly at her side. "He is committed to results. He wants to deliver for the Haitian people. And we are committed to helping him do so."
Lack of toilets
Haiti's difficult recovery from the earthquake and years of instability and poverty was underscored on Wednesday when 53 members of US Congress wrote to Clinton urging her to work with the Haitian government on providing rapid support for the displaced people lacking adequate shelter, water, sanitation and security.
Thirty-eight percent of resettlement camps still lack regular water supplies, their letter said, adding that the percentage had improved little since August. Nearly a third of camps don't have toilets. Where toilets are provided, each one is shared by an average of 273 people.
"The shelter installations in which displaced Haitians live are progressively deteriorating," the members of Congress wrote. Referring to Clinton as "our nation's top diplomat", the lawmakers urged the secretary "to work with Haitian authorities and our international partners to ensure a speedy, short-term response".