The final legal hurdle to the presidency for Haiti's president-elect was removed Thursday when rival and former first lady Mirlande Manigat said she will not mount a legal challenge.
Manigat announced her decision in a statement just as Michel Martelly was flying to Miami for an overnight trip. He is scheduled to meet with former President Bill Clinton today in Haiti.
"She made the right decision not to contest," said Martelly, who added that Haitians indicated they wanted change when they voted for him. He won the March 20 runoff by a 2-1 margin.
Manigat said through her attorneys she will not legally challenge the election results because she has no faith in the process. But she added that she remained dissatisfied with how the election was staged. Almost 30 percent of the votes were tossed out for fraud and other reasons, according to officials.
Her attorneys also accused Martelly of breaking elections law on the day the first round results were announced when he, along with presidential candidate Charles Henri-Baker and hip-hop star Wyclef Jean, took to the streets in carnival-like fashion to protest the election. Former presidential candidate Jude Celestin had asked the elections council to issue sanctions against Martelly and Henri-Baker, but none was administered.
In a visit to the Miami Herald, Martelly said he plans to focus on the country's reconstruction and building up the island-nation's economy after his inauguration next month. He said the victory puts him in position to "do more for the Haitian people."
As president, Martelly will inherit the mammoth task of guiding Haiti's post-quake reconstruction while figuring out where to find the money to make good on lofty campaign promises, including free access to education for all.
One of Martelly's immediate challenges is putting together a government that will get the confidence of the international community. Until now, donors have been holding onto tens of millions of dollars in budget support to Haiti, saying they are waiting for the new government to come into office.
Martelly said to create jobs he would bolster the agriculture sector and focus on peasants because "they have been left out." He also said with Haiti still in a reconstruction phase, jobs will be created through ongoing efforts to rebuild Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas.
As part of his proposed economic recovery, Martelly said he plans to build Haiti's tourism industry, which he said had been neglected.