Sunday, December 12, 2010


(Toronto Star) - By Jennifer Wells

PORT-AU-PRINCE—Smooth like a cat, Michel Martelly pads into the outdoor lounge of his Peguy Ville home, reaches out a long, leisurely paw and bats back the latest attempt to resolve the political crisis that has seized Haiti.

The No. 3 player, who says he should be at least the No. 3 player, if not the No. 1 player, makes it clear he has no interest in participating in the planned recount of the presidential vote that left him behind Jude Célestin by the tiniest of margins.

On Saturday, first-place finisher Mirlande Manigat said she too would not engage in “such an initiative,” thus possibly submarining the plan to have a newly formed commission oversee a fresh tabulation of the vote to be the country’s president.

“I will not. I will not,” says Martelly, aka Sweet Micky, lounging on a vast sectional couch that is away from the piano but relatively close to the outdoor bar, which itself is positioned near the Christmas tree that sparkles with giant red baubles and artificial poinsettia.

“I am being offered to participate in a second round with three candidates. I don’t want an offer. This is fraud . . . A massive fraud well organized by the government. . . . It’s a coup electoral.”

This is the kompa singer’s domestic element, where he lives with his wife, Sophia, and three of his four children. (The eldest will graduate from university in Miami on Monday.)

From here he slams the country’s provisional electoral council, or CEP.

“The CEP is not credible. The whole process is really organized disorder to create massive fraud at all levels in all aspects of the system. . . . You’re asking me to go to the same judge who has condemned me and who holds the evidence, who has tampered with them, who has probably thrown away some of my votes who probably have made up some new ones for Célestin. How can I trust this? I can’t.”

The latest on this front: the ballots that were “quarantined” for re-examination during the counting were included in the Célestin tally. “In order to keep me down they probably disposed of a few thousand of my votes,” is Martelly’s latest charge.

The thought that this could be fixed via a recount is swiftly refuted. “After the evidence has been tampered with? Come on, we’re not fools. It’s a trap, it’s a trap,” he says, motioning expansively.

Quickly, Martelly turns the tables.

“I have a question. I know I am being interviewed, but I have a question. The CEP is an independent institution. When they have the result, why do they have to contact the president 75 times in three days before they can release the result?”

Observers familiar with what constitutes conventional democratic political process may ask why Martelly had the preliminary results in hand Tuesday morning, hours before the final vote count was painfully read out by CEP press officer Richard Dumesle to a wilting, beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking media that had been waiting two hours for the results.

“I had these results, the results that came out that night? I had them early morning. And before these numbers came up I had the real numbers. Before I was leading at 46.5 per cent and I knew I was secure, I knew I was winning. It was a matter of am I winning on the first round or am I going to the second round?”

The answer: neither. And the capital was been on tenterhooks since.

On Saturday, engorged traffic returned to Petionville, gasoline could be found at a few pumps, and street commerce in parts of the city was in full flourish. Some airlines resumed flights and there was a sense of near normalcy through some swaths of the city.

There were no more burning tires, roads were clear, and after a brutal day of violence Thursday the city tensely wondered, what next?

Up in Peguy Ville, the air is fragrant, and workers are hard at the labour of hacking out the cement foundation of Martelly’s swimming pool and pouring a new one. Rifle-toting security guards are outfitted in black gear labelled “Target.” Martelly himself is wearing a pink shirt, in homage, perhaps to his campaign colour.

So, if the recount will not be supported, what is Martelly’s plan?

“I have a proposition that we will put out on Monday, something that’s fair to everybody. Not just me.”

Which means what? “Well, it will include a possibility of redoing the whole thing, redoing the whole thing with every candidate. . . . There are many other points inside that proposition.”

Does this suggest that Martelly favours starting all over again?

“Not start all over,” he says, refusing to comment further. “We all know that the power has wanted Jude Célestin to get to the second round and in order to do that they have done a massive fraud on every aspect of the process. Every aspect. So therefore we cannot just complain about Michel Martelly being rejected and even Mrs. Manigat being first. Who knows? Who knows? . . . It will be fair and it will take into consideration every single person who has to do with the election.”

The “proposition,” he says, will be taken to the public, the media, the international community, the CEP on Monday.

How any plan can be brokered peacefully is almost beyond comprehension after street protests turned to gun violence in the capital.

“You could have identified what brought out that revolt,” is the candidate’s first response.

“The CEP created a massive fraud. The CEP is responsible for what happened on the streets. Not the people protesting. Protesting is a constitutional right. Fraud gets you to jail. So why do we see the protests and we seem to ignore the fraud? . . . The people are reacting to the results. If they believe the vote has been stolen they need to protest.”

“Haiti . . . 24 years ago was under a dictatorial regime. And we went overnight to democracy when we overthrew Duvalier, without even telling our people what democracy is to the point where sometimes they think they can take justice into their own hands. . . . These are people who have no home to go home to. These are people who live in the streets.”

It’s a soft answer. Surely any possible outcome will once again be like lighting a match?

Perhaps Martelly is familiar with Yvon Zap Zap? Has he heard that name?

“Yes, very well,” Martelly responds. “He works for the power.”

It is said that Mr. Zap Zap’s Thursday rampage as part of a Célestin-branded attack against Martelly supporters resulted in nine shooting victims, including at least one death. Martelly is familiar with this turn of events.

“Didn’t you hear the senator of the Unity party claiming they are ready for civil war?” queries Martelly, as if to say, where’s the surprise?

It is not, Martelly continues, an even match.

“You have a civil war when one party’s ready to confront the other party. But when one party’s protesting and the other one comes with guns, it’s not a civil war, it’s a massacre.”

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