Haiti candidacy a 'wild card' says hip hop star Wyclef Jean
Thursday 19 August 2010
Hip hop star Wyclef Jean said today he was confident that Haiti election officials would accept his candidacy to run for president despite doubts over whether he meets the residency requirement.
The former Fugees frontman spoke while in hiding, following death threats, in a white stucco building on a rutted, dirt road where chickens scurry and Haitian women carry sacks of laundry atop their heads.
The multi-millionaire philanthropist, who was born in Haiti but raised in New York - said he had filed "every piece of paper the electoral council has asked for".
"We are winning on law," added the 40-year-old, speaking from a rattan chair in his hideaway about two hours from the presidential palace in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.
He argues that his appointment as a roving ambassador to Haiti in 2007 exempts him from the five-year residency requirement.
But even if he is barred from running in Haiti's November 28 elections, Jean says he will call for peace among his supporters.
"I will ask people to move in peace and move calmly," he said.
Haiti's electoral council was supposed to publish a list of candidates on Tuesday, but postponed the decision until tomorrow, a move some speculate was due to Jean's bid even though dozens of other candidacies must be decided on.
The wait has gripped the impoverished Caribbean country for days.
Jean, dressed casually in a blue-and-white striped shirt and blue slacks, spoke for 20 minutes with men with machine guns present, men drinking rum, and lawyers.
"I think my candidacy is a wild card for Haiti," he said.
Jean admitted that he had rankled some in Haitian politics by running and added that he had received death threats in Creole, one of the country's main languages, which have led him to go into hiding.
"We have taken measures of security," he said. "Even with security, anything is possible."
Haiti's next president will preside over the spending of billions in foreign reconstruction aid following the devastating January 12 earthquake that left a government-estimated 300,000 people dead and the capital in ruins.
He would also take over a country with a long history of political turmoil, corruption and poverty.
Jean said he wanted the Haitian people to "participate in the reconstruction" and that he would focus on the country's youth, and ask reconstruction donors to help the country's dysfunctional education system.
Nearly three dozen candidates have filed paperwork to run for president, prompting jokes about the race becoming an American Idol-style contest. Among them are US ambassador Raymond Joseph (Jean's uncle), Michel Martelly, a well-known Haitian singer known as "Sweet Mickey" who is known to perform in nappies, and Jean Bertin, the father of Miss Haiti who is competing in the Miss Universe contest next week.
Several other former prime ministers and political figures are also on the list.
The current president, Rene Preval, is not permitted to run for re-election.
Jean will almost certainly face questions regarding his participation in his former charity, Yele Haiti, which was accused of pre-quake financial improprieties that benefited the singer.
He also owed £1.3 million in back taxes in the US and during an earlier interview, pledged to publish an accounting of his finances online and to repay the money.
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