Wyclef Jean Is Not Eligible to Run for President of Haiti, Electoral Council Decides
No explanation was given. A council spokesman, Richardson Dumesle, simply read the list of 19 presidential aspirants deemed eligible and 15, including Mr. Jean, judged ineligible.
Throughout the day, the Haitian news media debated unconfirmed reports that Mr. Jean had already been disqualified from running, primarily because of a failure to meet the requirement of having been a resident of Haiti for five consecutive years before the election.
Mr. Jean, who left Haiti as a child for the United States and now shuttles between the two countries.
On Friday evening, hundreds of Mr. Jean’s passionate supporters had rallied outside the electoral council’s offices, chanting, “We want Clef, Clef is Haiti and Haiti is for Clef.”
The electoral council was supposed to issue its list of approved presidential candidates on Tuesday, but it delayed that move in order to scrutinize the eligibility not just of Mr. Jean but of many others in the field of 34 contenders. Other candidates under scrutiny reportedly included Yvon Neptune, a former prime minister; Leslie Voltaire, an architect active in reconstruction planning; and Michel Martelly, a musician known as Sweet Micky.
The decision to eliminate Mr. Jean was considered the most delicate, however. Despite his lack of political experience, Mr. Jean had been considered a potential front-runner from the moment he announced his candidacy in the first week of August. At that time, he described himself as having been “drafted” to run by the youth of Haiti.
“I didn’t create this hurricane, this tsunami you’re feeling in the last couple of days,” he said in an interview before announcing his candidacy.
Since Thursday evening, tensions have been building as reports have indicated that Mr. Jean may be excluded from the race. The Haitian media reported that the electoral council was meeting with government and international officials to determine how to proceed, and that United Nations peacekeeping forces were ready and waiting in case of any unrest.
President René Préval had summoned Mr. Jean on Thursday afternoon, prompting speculation that the departing president was asking Mr. Jean to prevail upon his followers to accept whatever decision the electoral council made.
On Friday, Mr. Jean sent a message to his supporters urging calm, Haitian radio stations reported. He also posted photographs on Twitter of his meeting with the president: “This is another pic of me n President René Préval from Yesterday’s Meeting. Very positive. Smiles all the way.”
In an interview earlier this month, Mr. Jean said that he believed he met the eligibility requirements for a presidential candidate. He said he never abandoned his Haitian citizenship; he holds a Haitian passport and an American green card, or legal permanent residency.
He also said he should not be disqualified on the basis of the residency requirement because he is a goodwill ambassador for Haiti, appointed by Mr. Préval with a mandate to rove the world.