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How 'Sweet Micky' Martelly transformed from carnival singer to Haiti president

Preliminary results from Haiti's presidential election show that Michel Martelly, also known as 'Sweet Micky,' won in a landslide victory.

By Ezra FieserCorrespondent / April 5, 2011

Supporters of Haiti's presidential candidate Michel 'Sweet Micky' Martelly carry a large poster of him as they celebrate after the announcement of preliminary results for the presidential election runoff in the Petion Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Monday, April 4.

Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

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Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

From popular carnival singer known for dropping his pants on stage to buttoned-down president of Haiti, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly is on the verge of completing an unlikely transformation.

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In a landslide victory, Mr. Martelly captured two-thirds of the vote in a run-off presidential election, according to preliminary results released Monday evening by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council.

Port-au-Prince was marked by celebrations following the announcement, as supporters launched fireworks, shot guns into the air, and played Martelly's songs on their radios, news media reported.

His opponent, former First Lady Mirlande Manigat, can challenge the results, the release of which was delayed several days because of fraud. But it appears unlikely that she could close the 36-point gap, having taken 31.74 percent of the vote to Martelly's 67.57 percent. The final results will be announced April 16.

The US embassy endorsed the tally, calling the announcement "another important milestone as the people of Haiti move forward to rebuild their country.... while there were cases of irregularities and fraud on March 20, these cases were isolated and reduced, especially when compared to the first round of voting."

If the results stand, Martelly will have made a startling run from political outsider to president of a country in desperate need of strong leadership. Evidence of the January 2010 earthquake still remains widespread, with hundreds of thousands of people still living in tents, rubble on the streets, and the vast majority of people in the capital unemployed.

Embracing a flamboyant past

Martelly seems an improbable savior. Just a decade ago, he was donning skirts and wigs, cursing, and drinking like a sailor while performing his flamboyant act.

“When he first declared himself a candidate, people didn’t take him seriously because he was the guy who dropped his pants on stage,” says Robert Fatton, a Haitian-American professor at the University of Virginia. “His persona, which should have been a handicap, became a plus. It was really a very clever campaign.”

Instead of turning his back on his flamboyant past, Martelly used pieces of it to motivate the youth vote and to position himself as a political outsider. The bubble gum pink splashed on his campaign posters and vehicles was a nod to his old act, as were the rallies, during which he mixed policy with stagemanship.

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