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Haiti's new leader makes rounds in Washington, vows transparency

By Moni Basu, CNN
Michel Martelly, pictured in Washington DC on April 21, won the second round of the election with 67.57% of the vote.
Michel Martelly, pictured in Washington DC on April 21, won the second round of the election with 67.57% of the vote.
  • Martelly says he will set up an e-governance system to stave corruption
  • He was officially named the winner of the presidential vote
  • Even before that, he was meeting officials in Washington
  • He faces many challenges in ensuring progress for the quake-devastated nation
  • Haiti
  • Michel Martelly

(CNN) -- Even before he was officially declared president, Michel Martelly was making the rounds in Washington.

The bad boy of Haitian music was not going to waste a minute in starting the job of a lifetime, something particularly daunting in Haiti, where past administrations stand accused of massive corruption and fraud.

His supporters say they elected him for being an outsider. They believed his promises that he would lead his nation out of despair. Now he appears ready to show them tangible proof that Haiti is finally moving forward. He said he had already begun doing just that on his trip to Washington.

"The message I am carrying back is that the international world, the financial institutions are ready to back up this new government," Martelly told CNN Thursday as he prepared to return home.

"It is important to rebuild confidence and trust in this process," he said. "And that can only be done through transparency."

As a first step, Martelly proposed setting up an e-governance system that would enable ordinary Haitians to access information on a website and even post complaints or expose fraud anonymously.

"We will also do it by example," he said. "The government has not served its people. It has been 14 months since the earthquake and people are still living in tents."

Martelly met Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and officials at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Banks.

Those meetings came before Haiti's election council officially declared him the winner Wednesday night with 67.67% of the presidential vote, finally ending a balloting process that began in late-November and was drawn out by irregularities.

Martelly responded to the announcement on Twitter. "Begin to take our tools, to clean our country, to get to work," he said in Creole.

Speaking to reporters Thursday at the National Press Club, Martelly said his meeting with Clinton was "productive."

"We discussed ways of streamlining U.S. aid to Haiti," he said. "We will ... strengthen our partnership with the United States and its people. As President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton stated many times, we need to strengthen the capacity of Haitian institutions so they can answer to the needs of the Haitian people."

Martelly's candidacy was unexpected -- he was better known as Sweet Micky, the kompa singer with flamboyant stage presence. He appealed to voters who had grown weary with the status quo and what they perceived as a lack of progress after the devastating 2010 earthquake.

"The reconstruction process is despairingly slow," he said Wednesday, citing it as a key complaint of the electorate. "This is why recovering and restarting the economy is a fundamental necessity for my government."

Since the earthquake, Haiti has received more than $1 billion in donations from Americans through several non-governmental organizations. In addition, the U.S. government has provided some $1.5 billion in aid.

Signs of renewal are appearing in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. On Wednesday, lawmakers there received a temporary parliament building in place of the nation's Legislative Palace, which was demolished after the earthquake.

But "Haiti today is the republic of NGOs," Martelly said Thursday. "The state has been weakened and this must change. We need to build up the state's institutions while making the valuable work of the NGOs more effective."

"My focus, as I promised during my campaign, is to revive and modernize Haiti's economy as its new president and provide free access to education, moving people out of tents by jump-starting reconstructions and focusing on the agricultural sector," he said.

After their meeting, Clinton pledged U.S. support for progress in Haiti, referring to Martelly by his campaign nickname: Tet Kale.

"Now I'm told the literal translation of that slogan is bald head, which doesn't need any further explanation," she said after meeting with him. "But Tet Kale is also an expression that means all the way. And the people of Haiti may have a long road ahead of them, but as they walk it, the United States will be with you all the way.

Initial results in the first round of voting put Martelly in third place and ousted him from a runoff. But after weeks of review, the final results ranked him second. He was then able to defeat former first lady Mirlande Manigat in the runoff election.

Martelly will be inaugurated May 14 in Port-au-Prince. He said one of his first actions as president will be to nominate high court judges. Creating an independent judiciary will send an important signal, he said.

"We have to establish a rule of law," he said. "We want justice for everyone."

Martelly admitted the tasks ahead seem herculean in nature. But he is determined to seize upon the moment.

"I am excited to take command and make the right decisions for my country," he said.

CNN's Padmananda Rama and Journalist Allyn Gaestel contributed to this report.