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The longtime “president of kompa” has ruled the jazzy, Latin, African and R&B-infused genre in recent decades with sensuous love songs, anti-authoritarian wisecracks and a routine that consisted in large part of pulling his pants down on stage.

Those stage skills have served him well.

After his march through the dusty capital suburb of Croix-des-Bouquets, Martely found himself in front of thousands. Introduced to wild applause by one of his backup singers, “Sweet Micky” slung his trademark sweat towel over his left shoulder and took the microphone.

“I always used to sing about rice and beans, but none of you listened,” he said, an image of his own face beaming from his T-shirt. “You were all too busy grinding to the music!” He gyrated his hips and the crowd went wild.

His stump speech flowed through the crises facing Haiti: hunger, the lack of housing, the lack of health care, the lack of jobs.

He made a play for the youth-vote mantle left by the disqualification of Wyclef Jean, a Croix-des-Bouquets native who can still play kingmaker in the race. A mention of Preval got a chorus of boos.

Martely briefly mentioned cholera, then said the U.N. peacekeepers would not leave Haiti until the country can provide its own security. Haiti’s own army was dissolved by Aristide after he was restored to power following a 1991 military coup.

“The army had problems, but we could have fixed them,” he said to his audience _ young, mostly unemployed men too young to remember Haiti’s string of military juntas. “You could have been soldiers, captains, colonels! Instead we’re paying a foreign army a lot of money!”

They roared. One young man took the stage to cheer for the candidate and denounce foreigners for bringing cholera to Haiti.

Some in the audience said they were sitting out the election altogether. Dieu-Juste Keller, 25, said it was unlikely any politician could handle all Haiti’s current crises or fix what ails the nation _ disease, disaster or otherwise.

“I don’t think anything can change this time,” he said, rocking to another burst of music. “I’m St. Thomas. When I see it, I’ll believe it.”