Friday, August 20, 2010

Wyclef Jean's Haiti presidential candidacy rejected

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Hip-hop star Wyclef Jean has been barred from running for president of Haiti.
It’s official: Wyclef Jean, the hip-hop singer who stirred the pot by saying he’d run for the country’s presidency after a devastating earthquake, is not qualified to run.

“It is with a heavy heart that I tell you today that the board of elections in Haiti has disqualified me from my run for the presidency of the country,” Wyclef Jean said in a statement late Friday night. “Though I disagree with the ruling, I respectfully accept the committee’s final decision, and I urge my supporters to do the same.”

The decision, confirmed by a Haitian government official, brings an end to the Grammy-award winner’s bid to campaign for the country’s top post which is up for election in November. The commission rejected Jean’s application, saying that he had not met residency requirements to run.

The obstacle Jean faced: proving five consecutive years of residency before the voting day.

Jean was born in Haiti, but moved to the U.S. when he was a child and was raised there. He rose to fame in the 1990s as a vocalist with hip-hop act The Fugees, and has been active in Haitian social causes since.

United Nations peacekeepers were mobilizing in Port-au-Prince on Friday night and early Saturday in anticipation of unrest related to the announcement, a spokesman said Friday.

“We are aware that the release of the list of prospective candidates could cause rallies or mass movement,” said Jean-François Vézina, of the United Nations police, in a recent briefing with reporters.

On Thursday, Jean met with Haitian President René Préval, leading to speculation that the current president was preparing Jean for a decision against his candidacy. A spokesman confirmed the meeting, but before the decision said Jean “emerged cautiously optimistic.”

The spokeswoman added: “[Jean’s] most urgent concern is peace and prosperity for Haiti, and the wellness of all Haitians.  He is prepared to cooperate with the next President of his homeland but surely hopes he is elected and will serve for these crucial years.”

Jean’s bid for president had attracted renewed attention to the island after a devastating earthquake which occurred there on Jan. 12. Before making the bid Jean had taken up a post as “roving ambassador” for the country, in an effort to raise interest about the disaster.

But his charitable activity has also been the source of controversy this year. Several watchdog groups accused Jean’s charity foundation, Yelé Haiti, of bad accounting on its tax filings and Jean of inappropriate management in paying himself with the charity’s funds. Jean has denied he did anything wrong.

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