Haiti rejects hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean's candidacy for president

For a while, the hip-hop artist looked like a major contender in the Haitian presidential race. But legal issues appear to have prevented him from running.
By Mike Melia and Tamara Lush
Saturday, August 21, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI -- Haiti's electoral council ruled Friday night that hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean cannot run for president, ending his bid to lead the reconstruction of the earthquake-ravaged Caribbean island.

Council spokesman Richard Dumel said election officials have accepted 19 candidacies and rejected 15 others. The Haitian-born singer's candidacy was turned down because he did not meet the residency requirement of having lived in Haiti for five years before the Nov. 28 election.

Jean left Haiti as a boy and has lived off and on in the country in recent years. In 2007 he was named roving ambassador to Haiti by President René Préval, an appointment that Jean said qualifies him to run for president.

Those who were approved for the election included two-time Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis; Leslie Voltaire, a U.S.-educated urban planner and former minister; Yvon Neptune, another former prime minister who served under former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide; and well-known opposition leader and former first lady Mirlande Manigat.

In a statement, Jean said he disagreed with the council's decision but accepted it and urged his supporters to do likewise.

The 40-year-old singer's fame and wealth instantly made him a formidable candidate in the desperately poor Caribbean nation, though some Haitians questioned the seriousness of his run.

Jean gained fame as a member of the hip-hop musical group the Fugees before building a solo career. He has no political organization, not much of a following beyond the fans of his music and only a vague platform, casting himself as an advocate of Haiti's struggling youth and saying he will ask reconstruction donors to help the country's dysfunctional education system.

He also has faced persistent criticism over alleged financial mismanagement at the charity he founded, Yéle Haiti.

On the other hand, he has generated global attention on a race in which almost no one outside Haiti could name any of the candidates.

"If he hadn't been involved, today no one would be talking about candidates in the Haitian presidential election," said Mark Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University.

Analysts said it was difficult to assess what kind of support Jean had beyond his mainly young and urban fans, but as a well-funded wild card, he made more-established politicians nervous.

-- Associated Press

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