Wyclef Jean has been definitively barred from running in Haiti’s presidential elections, the electoral council said on Friday, but the hip-hop star dismissed the decision as “propaganda.”
The council ruled last week that 15 would-be candidates, including Jean, did not meet the legal requirements for candidacy in the Nov. 28 presidential election.
On Friday a lawyer for the council underlined that despite Jean’s protestations since, the decision would stand.
“In the eyes of the law and the provisional electoral council [CEP], the list of candidates admitted to the race is final,” council lawyer Durand Jeanty said.
Jean dismissed the logic of the council that he was ineligible for the top office because he had not lived in the Caribbean nation for five consecutive years and suggested the powerful elite were trying to keep the diaspora out.
The residency requirement means “having residence or domain in Haiti. It doesn’t mean that you physically have to be in Haiti for five years straight,” Jean told CNN, adding that he had paperwork qualifying him “for everything.”
Jean lives in the New York area but spent his first nine years in Haiti. He traveled back to his homeland several times before the quake to defuse violence in gang-infested slums and help the most disadvantaged Haitians.
Early this week, Jean’s lawyers said the singer would appeal to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) and Haitian courts to defend his rights.
Samuel Pierre, a lawyer for the Haitian electoral council, however, said there would be no appeal to its decision and that no ruling by the IACHR could overrule it.
The mandate of current Haitian President Rene Preval ends on Feb. 7. He has served the maximum two terms allowed under Haitian law.
The candidacy of Jean, a Grammy Award-winning musician, has raised the international profile of the polls — the first since a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake that killed at least 250,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless.
The rebuilding task facing the new president is enormous and the international community is concerned that US$5.3 billion of promised aid doesn’t go to waste.
Jean, who argues that his appointment by Preval as a roving ambassador for Haiti required him to spend time abroad but that he has maintained residence in his native country for years, hit out on Friday at the government.
“I feel there are parts of the government that have conspired so that candidates that are from the diaspora could never come back to the country and aid,” Jean said. “So we’re going to contest this because at the end of the day the truth has to be out.”
Jean earlier released a song to local radio stations accusing Preval directly of having been behind the decision to end his presidential aspirations.
“It’s not Wyclef that you have expelled, it is the youth you have denied,” the 40-year-old sang in Haitian Creole. “I know all the cards are in your hands. I voted for you to be president in 2006, why today did you reject my candidacy?”
Despite his anger, Wyclef urged supporters in a posting on his Web site to accept the ruling and said he would “continue to work for Haiti’s renewal.”
“I was inspired to run for president because I know Haiti can become great with the right leadership, and I believe I could be that leader; but, ultimately, we must respect the rule of law in order for our island to become the great nation we all aspire for it to be,” he said.