By Joe Colas
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Haiti’s president, Michel Martelly, enjoys an approval rating of 80.5%, which makes him the most popular leader in the western hemisphere, despite the tough challenges his administration is facing in a Caribbean country where most people live on less than two dollars per day, pollsters say.
President Michel Martelly
According to a new poll taken by Newlink Research, a Miami based firm that polls extensively throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and Dagmar Research, one of Haiti’s leading public opinion firms, Martelly’s approval rating climbed to 80.5% in December from 62.4% in May.
Pollsters surveyed 1,098 Haitians between December 11 and 17 and the poll has a margin of error of +/-5 percent at the 90% confidence level.
The Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe’s approval rating reached 68.1% from 51.4%, while the Haitian government rating rose to 77.6% from only 43.2 % in May.
Haitians seem to value the fact that Martelly and Lamothe are working very well and closely together as they implement a vision and policies. Some 66.3% of Haitians approve the smooth and teamwork kind of collaboration between both men, a cooperative behaviour seen as crucial for government coherence and effectiveness.
The poll also shows that 54.6% of the population thinks the president is willing to work with parliament, while only 36.2% believes that parliament is interested in working with the president.
The executive branch and parliament have often been at odds over the past couple of years, trading accusations over shortcomings and failures. However, on a scale of 1 to 7 the poll shows that Haitians trust their President (5.14) more than Parliament (3.24).
The poll asked about the long delayed senate and municipal elections, which had been a concern for many sectors of the population and the international community. A vast majority (76.9%) of Haitians disapproved the long electoral delay they blame on both the executive branch and parliament.
In the meantime, a significant step has been taken towards the holding of the ballot with the recent promulgation, by Martelly, of a new electoral law in the country’s official gazette, Le Moniteur.
Lastly, the poll shows that Haitians have a growing concern about the safety situation, with 15% who believe that security is an issue, compared to only 7% in May. Concern was also voiced over the numerous protests mainly seen around Port-au-Prince during the past few weeks, according to the poll, the second of the kind taken by Newlink Research and Dagmar Research in Haiti.
The government has set up the first structured social assistance program in Haiti, offering food kits, hot meals, cash transfers to vulnerable mothers, handicap, students, the elderly; providing tuition-free education to nearly 1.4 million school children, renovating slum areas and empowering vulnerable communities in urban and rural areas.
Such programs, which are financed mostly by funds generated by the Venezuelan-sponsored PetroCaribe oil deal, are very well appreciated.
“I believe President Martelly and Prime Minister Lamothe are doing all they can to help poor people like me,” said Mirlande Leger, a 47-year-old mother who is a beneficiary of a government cash transfer program called “Ti Manman cheri” (Dear little mother).
“It is for the very first time I have received something from any government,” Leger told HCNN, as she sat behind a tray almost full of peanuts and half a bag of oranges that she sells to passers-by, in the poor neighborhood of Carrefour-feuille in the capital Port-au-Prince.
“I put the small amount the government gave me in this little business that is helping me with my two children,” she explained.
Although such social programs are very popular among vulnerable communities and people who need them, government critics have called them cosmetic and politically motivated.
“You cannot change people’s lives with ‘Ti Manman cheri’. Through these programs the government is only trying to make political gains,” said Turneb Delpe, a leading opposition figure.
Martelly, a former popular musician and entertainer, regularly visits towns and cities all over Haiti where he interacts directly with Haitians, while Lamothe, a businessman turned politician, is generally perceived as someone who has brought business practice and discipline into government, according to the pollsters.