A musician who has never held office has been elected as disaster-ravaged Haiti's new president after coming from behind to trounce the country's former first lady in a run-off vote, according to preliminary results.
Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly capitalized on overwhelming public desire for change to seize nearly 68 percent of the vote against Mirlande Manigat despite trailing her in the first round of voting, Reuters said.
As the capital Port-au-Prince erupted in celebrations, Martelly thanked voters via his Twitter account, saying: "We'll work for all Haitians. Together we can do it."
His victory, likely to be officially confirmed on April 16 after legal complaints have been heard, was welcomed cautiously by Washington, which called the result "another important milestone as the people of Haiti move forward to rebuild their country."
The United States, the United Nations and other donors have pledged billions of dollars to help with reconstruction in the impoverished Caribbean nation as it recovers from a devastating 2010 earthquake that killed 300,000 people.
With many Haitians unhappy with the pace of recovery, Martelly's pledges for change appear to have hit home, transforming him from an outsider candidate into the popular favorite.
The 50-year-old carnival entertainer -- whose raucous stage act sometimes include dropping his pants, wearing wigs and skirts, and making satirical swipes at the government -- had been knocked out of the election race in December but was reinstated after international monitors found fraud in favor of the ruling party.
Martelly is expected to take office on May 14, replacing President Rene Preval, who is stepping down after serving a maximum two terms in office.
-- Barry Neild