Wyclef Jean to challenge ruling on his eligibility to stand for Haiti president

Wyclef Jean

Wyclef Jean, the hip-hop star who had hoped to become Haiti’s next president, said Sunday that his lawyers would challenge the recent ruling from election officials that kept him from the list of eligible candidates.

He had accepted the election-council decision when it was announced Friday night, but in a message on Sunday on Twitter, Jean said he had decided to appeal because, “We have met all the requirements set by the laws. And the law must be Respected.”

An election-bureau spokesman, Richardson Dumel, said Sunday that there was no legal mechanism for contesting an election- eligibility decision.

But Jean said he had been barred prematurely. He told The Associated Press that another Haitian elections entity had not issued a final ruling on whether he met the requirement that presidential candidates live in Haiti for five consecutive years before the election in November.

Earlier he had argued that, although as a child he left Haiti for the United States, he should not be barred on the basis of residency because he is a goodwill ambassador for Haiti with a mandate from its government to rove the world.

On Sunday, he said he believed his candidacy was rejected because of politics, not law.

“I will be seeking a solution through legal channels, and I urge my countrymen to be patient,” he said in a statement issued later in the day.

At least one of the 19 approved presidential candidates, Leslie Voltaire, said that Jean should be allowed to run.

The continued back and forth reflects a deeper Haitian rift. Historians point out that the country’s political class has never fully made its peace with what Jean represents: the successful Haitian diaspora — financially helpful and mostly out of town.

But dual citizenship is not allowed in Haiti, so millions of Haitians living abroad are cut out of the country’s voting system.

“Wyclef talked about bringing the American dream to Haiti, and those who supported him saw him as a potential conduit and communicator between the two countries,” said Laurent Dubois, a historian of Haiti at Duke University. “But there’s also, of course, anxiety in Haiti about U.S. influence, so that can cut both ways.”

Haiti’s identity, after all, has been linked with resisting outsiders since it became the world’s first black republic in 1804, casting out the French. Whites were prevented from becoming land owners by an article of the constitution, Dubois said, until the United States rewrote it during its occupation from 1915 to 1934.

Later interventions by the United States and the United Nations have only increased Haiti’s sensitivity regarding independence, especially after an earthquake on Jan. 12 brought the country to its knees.

But with their homes in ruins, many Haitians wander the streets saying they will welcome foreign control if it helps.

Louis Herns Marcelin, a Haitian-born anthropology professor at the University of Miami, said those with influence and money have greater fears about the change that outsiders might bring, while most people just want to see their own, often wretched circumstances change.

That was what many people, especially the young, had hoped Jean could bring. “Clef,” as his supporters in Haiti call him, is not part of the status quo. Even in terms of language, he represents a break from the past because he speaks Creole and English, not French, the language of Haiti’s political order.

“He isn’t like the others who came and became president, then stole all the Haitian people’s money,” said Fafane Petion, 24, a supporter of Jean in Port-au-Prince.

Even before he was disqualified, Jean faced tough questions (and not just from the elite) about his lack of political experience, his personal finances and his charity, Yele Haiti.

Jean has blurred boundaries between his personal business and Yele Haiti’s mission — using the charity to pay his production company for benefit concerts that he headlined. Some Haitians have worried that the millions of dollars Yele Haiti raised after the earthquake would be used to advance Jean’s campaign.

If he is ultimately disqualified, the conversation that he kick-started — about the diaspora, about who is Haitian and about what Haiti needs from beyond its borders — will be cut short, perhaps temporarily.
Source: Seattle Times

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