Ex-leader of of Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies says singer Wyclef Jean will run for president

By Jonathan M. Katz, AP
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ex-deputy: Wyclef Jean to run for Haiti president

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Singer Wyclef Jean is about to announce his candidacy for president of earthquake-ravaged Haiti, the former head of the country’s Chamber of Deputies said Tuesday.

Former Deputy Pierre Eric Jean-Jacques told The Associated Press that the hip hop artist will run as part of his coalition in the Nov. 28 election.

Jean spokeswoman Cindy Tanenbaum declined to confirm the report. She said the singer planned to make an announcement Thursday night in Haiti but declined to say what it would be.

Jean-Jacques, who will be seeking to return to the Chamber of Deputies in the election, said he will be a candidate for a new coalition that calls itself Ansanm Nou Fo, which translates as “together we are strong” in Creole.

“Yes, we have an agreement (with Jean). But he’s the one who has to announce it first,” Jean-Jacques told AP, declining to elaborate on their political plans.

Jean is popular in Haiti for his music and for his work through his charity Yele Haiti, which raised millions of dolars after the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 people and knocked down most of the government ministries and many of the homes in the capital.

Rumors have swirled for months that Jean would run for president. The singer has always been careful not to rule out a run for the office and recorded a song “If I was President.”

The 37-year-old was born outside Port-au-Prince but left as a child and grew up in Brooklyn.

Dozens of candidates are expected to compete for the presidency in the Nov. 28 election, among them Jean’s uncle Raymond Joseph, who is Haiti’s ambassador in Washington. Other likely candidates include former prime ministers, mayors and another popular Haitian musician, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly.

All must register their candidancies with the country’s electoral council by Saturday. The electoral council’s director of registration, Jean-Marie Lumier, said Tuesday he had not received papers for Jean’s bid.

Questions surround Jean’s qualifications for office. He must prove he has resided in Haiti for five consecutive years, own property in the country and have no other citizenship but Haitian. Officials have disqualified some candidates on technicalities while allowing others to run.

In 2007, the singer was named an official Haitian ambassador-at-large by President Rene Preval, whom Jean supported in his 2006 re-election bid. Preval has served two non-consecutive terms and is barred by the constitution from seeking office again.

In recent weeks Jean’s Twitter feed has been awash with original and re-tweeted demands for transparent elections, proposals for reducing Haiti’s chronic poverty and calls to defend camps of the estimated 1.6 million people made homeless by the quake from forced eviction.

Reaction to his possible candidacy has been divided as Haitians debate the pluses and minues of his inexperience. The musician has a strikingly different profile than the generals, technocrats and priests who have led it before, speaking little French and Haitian Creole with a diaspora accent.

“I will give him my vote. All these people who have been in Haiti haven’t done anything for us,” said Jean Leuis, a 22-year-old bread vendor.

Bosejour Leconte, a 34-year-old phone card seller who has been living in a tent since the earthquake, thought otherwise.

“I don’t think he has the qualifications to be president. I’d rather vote for someone that has political experience,” he said.

Jean-Jacques and other politicians, including a senator from ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party — which is not expected to be allowed to participate in the election — formed the Ansanm Nou Fo coalition ahead of February elections that were canceled because of the earthquake.

Haiti’s next president will face an enormous task of rebuilding a country devastated by the Jan. 12 earthquake. But the office has never been an easy job: Presidents have only rarely completed a constitutional five-year term — most in history have been overthrown, assassinated, declared themselves “president-for-life” or some combination of the three.

Associated Press Writer Evens Sanon contributed to this report.

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