PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Musician Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly scored a come-from-behind victory Monday in Haiti's presidential runoff, according to preliminary results from last month's election in which easily defeating a former first lady for the leadership of a country facing enormous challenges.
Martelly, who has never held political office, received nearly 68 percent of the vote in the two-way race with Mirlande Manigat, electoral council spokesman Pierre Thibault said in an announcement that was immediately followed by noisy celebration in the Haitian capital.
The popular musician, a star of the Haitian genre known as compas, had trailed Manigat in the crowded first-round election in November. But his campaign gained momentum in the second round and many voters seemed enchanted with his lack of political experience in a country where the government has failed to provide many basic services.
Martelly promised profound change for Haiti, vowing to provide free education in a country where more than half the children can't afford school and to create economic opportunity amid almost universal unemployment.
"I'm going to celebrate with the people, then I'm going home to my kids," Wilson Goren, a 32-year-old street vendor, said as fireworks erupted around him after the results were announced.
Final results are due to be released April 16.
The candidates were vying to replace President Rene Preval, who was barred by the constitution from serving a third term.
The new president will face a challenging environment that includes a Senate and Chamber of Deputies controlled by Preval's party and widespread anger over the slow progress of reconstruction from the January 2010 earthquake. Haiti also is grappling with a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 4,000 people since October and is expected to worsen with the spring rainy season.
Much of Haiti was paralyzed by riots in December after the electoral council announced first-round results that initially excluded Martelly from the runoff. The Organization of American States later determined those results were incorrect and the musician had come in second, giving him a spot on the second ballot.
Associated Press writer Jacob Kushner contributed to this report.