The Washington Post

Before he went into politics, Haitian President Michel Martelly was a pop star whose stage antics included mooning his adoring fans. As president, Martelly, whose five years in office are drawing to a close, has treated his constituents, Haiti’s 10 million citizens, with no more dignity or respect.

Martelly is largely to blame for having led the country into electoral and political chaos, with no prospect of electing his replacement by Feb. 7, as the Haitian constitution requires. Having governed as a virtual autocrat for much of his term, as a consequence of failing to hold timely elections to replace term-limited local officials and members of parliament, Martelly was instrumental in creating the conditions for a shambolic first round of presidential elections, in October.

The first-place finisher, agricultural promoter Jovenel Moise, was Martelly’s hand-picked successor. The only question was whether the fraud was systemic or merely widespread.

After having been postponed from Dec. 27 to Jan. 17, the runoff was undone by the toxicity that surrounds Martelly’s presidency and the distrust engendered by the Provisional Electoral Council. With street violence intensifying and Moise’s chief rival having withdrawn from the proceedings, leaving a one-man race, the elections were canceled.

Martelly squandered more good will and opportunity than many of his corrupt, self-serving predecessors.

He took office just a year after the cataclysmic 2010 earthquake shattered the nation, with billions of dollars of foreign aid pouring in. And he had the advantage of being the only democratically elected Haitian president to take power from a democratically elected predecessor. It’s fair to wonder now when that will next take place.

The United States dumped over $33 million into the presidential elections, to no good effect. Although some Haitians distrust Washington’s intentions, it’s likely that without a stronger U.S. diplomatic role, the country’s pandemonium will only deepen.


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