The most significant feature of Haiti’s recent presidential election is that it happened at all. That it was, generally, free and fair, made it even more remarkable. Not too many years ago, both would have been unthinkable.

The next most significant feature of the election is that Haitians, by a margin of nearly three-to-one, rejected a highly educated candidate viewed as politically astute and capable in favor of one who is best known as a popular singer of the Haitian music genre known as compas.

On Monday, the country’s electoral council declared Mr. Michel Martelly the new president, with nearly 68 percent of the votes, over former first lady Mrs. Mirlande Manigat.

The 50-year-old president-elect will lead the world’s most distressed nation. Just 15 months ago, a massive earthquake killed an estimated 250,000 Haitians, left the capital in ruins and has forced probably a million people to live in make-shift tents. Months later, an outbreak of cholera began to add to the woes of the country, killing more than 4,000 people since October.

President-elect Martelly will face the daunting task of rebuilding an already very poor country whose infrastructure lies in ruins, whose people’s spirit, which has endured decades of harsh oppression, is near the breaking point. He will be in charge of rebuilding efforts that are being financed by generous donors who have pledged billions of dollars to Haiti’s reconstruction. He must understand that no one person is equal to the work ahead. He will do well to assemble a team with the expertise, skills and experience needed in this time of great need. He will have to show strong leadership, without succumbing to the temptation to become arrogant, to ensure that the reconstruction effort is not allowed to be bogged down by petty politics.

The multiple tragedies that have bedeviled this nation not too far from America’s shores have fostered a resilient people who, with the right leadership, can seize this moment in history to create a new Haiti. The journey will be long, slow and very painful but not impossible.