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Martelly departs as he came: amid uncertainty, disorder

Published:Sunday | February 7, 2016 | 2:00 AM
Haiti’s President Michel Martelli (left) speaks as he walks with his Cabinet chief, Ann Valerie Timothee Milfort, after an interview at the National Palace.

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AP):

Michel Martelly took office promising a stronger Haiti following a messy election that provoked widespread scepticism.

He is due to leave power today at the close of his five-year term with few accomplishments and a legacy clouded by a new political crisis.

The singer-turned-politician had urged Haitians to set aside deep divisions at his May 2011 inauguration. But his hostile relations with parliament resulted in gridlock.

Many Haitians say Martelly squandered a golden opportunity to turn impoverished Haiti around as international aid poured into the country following a devastating 2010 earthquake that flattened much of the capital and surrounding areas. The disaster killed an estimated 300,000 people.

"He said he'd help the population and I hoped it was true. But here we are still struggling, same as ever," said fruit vendor Nadine Suzie, selling oranges on a street corner by piles of smouldering garbage. Haiti has long been one of the poorest and most unequal countries in the world.

CHARISMATIC BUT FLAWED

Some who worked with him closely see Martelly as a charismatic but flawed leader who doomed his presidency by surrounding himself with an entourage of unsavory cronies, including a number from his previous career as 'Sweet Micky', the self-proclaimed 'bad boy' of Haitian pop music.

"It hurts me to say this because I still like him as a person, but the Martelly years were a big zero. There were people around him who were very corrupt and money had a way of disappearing," said Georges Sassine, a prominent industrialist who was tasked with overseeing the country's industrial parks until he was abruptly replaced in 2013.

Martelly's former prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, who was forced to resign under pressure in late 2014 after some 2 1/2 years in office, is distancing himself from the president during his shambolic last days.

He asserts Haiti made clear gains during their partnership but political feuding over the last year has rolled them back.

Lamothe told The Associated Press that the endless infighting between the president and parliament, "brought Haiti back to its old days of gridlock and self-serving policies that collapsed the economy and destroyed any progress that was achieved."

The dysfunction deepened last year when the mandates of the entire lower house and a third of the senate expired in the absence of elections, leaving Martelly to rule by decree.

He leaves today as a run-off vote to choose his successor has been indefinitely postponed and officials try to negotiate a solution for a short-term interim government.