Haiti’s Popstar Turned Politician Faces Post-Election Challenges

Ashley Mosteller /

The streets of Port-au-Prince erupted in jubilation on Monday, April 4, when the Haitian Provisional Electoral Council declared Michel Martelly to be the preliminary winner of the presidential runoff election.

Martelly sailed to victory following the March 20 runoff vote, riding a wave of voter discontent with the performance of current President Rene Preval. The flashy, controversial pop star turned politician captured 67.6 percent of the vote in a sound defeat of opponent Mirlande Manigat, who collected 31.5 percent. While the official results will not be verified until April 20, Martelly’s victory merits the congratulations and cautious support of the Obama Administration.

Martelly, 50, affectionately nicknamed “Bald Head” by his supporters, did an excellent job revamping his public image to run a successful campaign. The son of an oil company executive, he benefited from a prestigious education before emerging as a successful musician. Not long ago, he was best known for cursing onstage and performing in drag. Last year, he was able to channel that popularity and energy into reinventing himself as a political reformer ready to take on the status quo. (more…)