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Haiti’s President-Elect Promises Reconciliation After Tumultuous Election

April 6, 2011 at 6:14 PM EST
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JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, the Haiti story, a new president and many of the same problems.

Ray Suarez is in charge.

RAY SUAREZ: Celebrating his election victory, Haiti’s presumptive president, Michel Martelly, said his win will usher in a new era.

MICHEL MARTELLY, Haitian president-elect (through translator): You wanted change. You voted for change, change of our political activities, change in our economic choices, change in our social organization.

RAY SUAREZ: On Monday, preliminary results showed he captured nearly 68 percent of the vote in a March 20 runoff against Mirlande Manigat, a former senator and first lady. Martelly had placed behind Manigat in the first round of voting in November in a three-way race with current ruling party candidate Jude Celestin.

The vote was marred by disorganization and claims of ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation. Much of the support for Martelly, a former pop star known as Sweet Micky, comes from the young and the unemployed.

Many Haitians said they hoped the election to replace President Rene Preval would help bring stability to Haiti. Yesterday, Martelly promised reconciliation.

MICHEL MARTELLY (through translator): Haiti must rebuild itself. We have a democracy to strengthen.

RAY SUAREZ: The new leader takes over a country grappling with daunting challenges on numerous fronts. Reconstruction from the devastating January 2010 earthquake is still stalled.

Hundreds of thousands remain homeless and unemployed in Port-au-Prince. The political vacuum has left some of the much-needed aid funds in the hands of non-Haitians, with much of the money yet to be spent in the country. And amongst the public health problems, a cholera outbreak last October that killed more than 4,000 people.

The earthquake followed nearly a century of political instability and dictatorship. Popular and divisive ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and deposed dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier have returned from exile, stirring further anxiety about the future.