Wyclef Jean Faces Challenges As He Officially Announces Candidacy In Haiti’s Presidential Race

Haitian-American hip hop star and presidential candidate Wyclef Jean.
Haitian-American hip hop star and presidential candidate Wyclef Jean.
Haitian-American hip hop star and presidential candidate Wyclef Jean.
Haitian-American hip hop star and presidential candidate Wyclef Jean.

Today in Latin America

Top Story — Wyclef Jean formally announced his candidacy in Haiti’s November presidential elections Thursday, both by radio in Creole and on the Larry King Live show in English.

The popular entertainer’s fame and financial resources give him an edge over the competition, but there are mounting concerns about his eligibility and lack of political experience.

Article 135 of Haiti’s Constitution requires presidential candidates to reside in the country for five years prior to the election and forbids them from ever taking foreign citizenship, reports The Christian Science Monitor.

Jean believes his candidacy is legal. But while he never gave up his Haitian passport, he holds dual citizenship with the United States, where he was raised. And though he owns a home in the Haitian beach town of Jérémie, his primary residence is in New Jersey and he travels the world frequently while on tour.

There are also concerns about Jean’s political background. Though he has served as Haiti’s ambassador-at-large and took an active role in the earthquake rebuilding efforts, he has never held public office. His lack of political experience could prove a liability in a country where the government was already notoriously weak before the Jan. 12 earthquake.

“First, he doesn’t know how the state works,” Haitian sociologist Leannec Hurbon told The Los Angeles Times. “He hasn’t any knowledge of the political parties. This is not a good thing for democracy in Haiti.”

Jean has deflected criticism, saying in interviews that he was “drafted by the youth” into running, and comparing himself to singer and political activist Harry Belafonte.

“Usually when you make this kind of transition, it’s a contact sport, so the first thing I expect out of anyone’s mouth is, ‘well, he’s a pop star, what does he know about Haitian politics?’ ” Jean told The BBC in an interview. “They may be right about that, but what I do know is… we have a nation, and for the past 200 years we still don’t have a system. The policies that were created for Haiti kept Haiti in debt.”

Haiti’s electoral council is expected to announce the eligible candidates on Aug. 17, The Miami Herald Reports.

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3 comments

  1. Mr. Wyclef jean has been successful in the USA as a musician. He becomes a millionaire. However, his financial success in the US, ipso facto does not qualify him to become the president in Haiti. Some financial interests in the US are pushing his candidacy in the throat of the Haitian people.
    Mr. Wyclef jean does not have the necessary academic preparation to become the president of Haiti. If and only if elected as a president of Haiti, he will be known as the “podium faux pas nightmare president.” He might deflect those impeding embarrassment by avoiding giving any speech in French or in English or he will have to send someone else to represent him as a speaker. Never mind when it is time to attend serious matters concerning the state, his lack of schooling will preclude him from being able to see the big picture as head of state.

  2. If Jean has an authentic heartfelt desire to help Haiti there are other ways in which he can do this more effectively. Leave the business of running a country so devastated to someone more educated and competent.

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