Haiti Awaits Ruling on Wyclef Jean’s Eligibility for Office

In Politics, World News on August 20, 2010 at 7:00 pm
Haiti waited anxiously on Friday for a formal ruling on whether the hip-hop star Wyclef Jean would be allowed to run for president of the earthquake-shattered nation, but a growing number of reports suggested that he would not be on the ballot.

By early Friday afternoon, Haiti’s electoral commission had not yet published a list of candidates deemed eligible to seek office, but a prominent Haitian journalist and a report in the Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste said that Mr. Jean had been excluded from the race.

Some tensions were evident on Thursday night as Mr. Jean’s supporters demonstrated in support of him in the capital and other cities. Radio reports said hundreds of his backers rallied outside the electoral commission building in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince, chanting, “We want Clef, Clef is Haiti and Haiti is for Clef.”

The Haitian Press Association reported that the United Nations peacekeeping forces were ready and waiting in case of any unrest after the announcement.

Mr. Jean, who was reported to be holed up in his home in Laserre, outside the capital, has been considered a potential front-runner from moment he announced his candidacy for the presidency of the earthquake-battered country in first week of August.

The electoral commission’s spokesman would not comment on their decision, and a message posted on Mr. Jean’s Twitter feed on Friday morning suggested that he, too, was still waiting.

“We await the decision of the Electoral Council, to see if I made the list as a candidate,” the message said. “As it is written So Shall it be Done!” The release of the candidate list was not certain to come on Friday. The commission had delayed its publication of the list earlier this week, and some Haitian news reports said the announcement would be made “by the weekend at the latest.”

Reuters, citing an unidentified member of the electoral commission, reported that Mr. Jean had been excluded from the race because he did not meet eligibility requirements of living in Haiti for five consecutive years before the Nov. 28 vote.

The Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported Friday that an electoral commission member met with several local journalists on Thursday and said that Mr. Jean would not be among the eligible candidates. Le Nouvelliste quoted the unnamed member of the commission as saying that there have been several meetings on the subject with members of electoral commission, representative of the president’s office and of several embassies.

Mr. Jean has said that he goes back and forth between United States and Haiti and that because he is a good-will ambassador, he is supposed to rove. Mr. Jean, who left Haiti as a child for the United States, has also said he remains a Haitian citizen , holds a Haitian passport, and has a green card granting American residency.

Mr. Jean was summoned to see President René Préval on Thursday afternoon, prompting speculation that the departing president was giving him advance notice of the electoral commission’s decision to reject him and asking him to prevail upon his followers to accept the decision calmly.

Mr. Jean put out a statement on Thursday night saying he was “cautiously optimistic” about the electoral panel’s decision.

“Wyclef Jean puts the needs for health, wellness, and future prosperity of Haiti’s citizens first and foremost,” the statement said. “He will be focused on this tomorrow, and hopes that he’ll be accepted as a candidate for president. He looks forward to five productive years of public service to his homeland and the people he loves, and to building bridges to the rest of world, as he leads his country in rebuilding.”

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