PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Another potential powerhouse emerged Wednesday in the race for Haiti's presidency as the ruling party nominated ousted ex-Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis to lead the earthquake-ravaged nation.
The backing of President Rene Preval's newly formed Unity party could push the former premier's prospects ahead of the international star power of Haitian-born, Brooklyn-raised singer Wyclef Jean.
Alexis was nominated late Tuesday at a Unity meeting, presidential Chief of Staff Fritz Longchamp told The Associated Press.
The two candidates were pictured side-by-side on the front page of Port-au-Prince's Le Nouvelliste newspaper the next day under the headline, "Alexis designated, Wyclef decided." Jean says he will declare his candidacy Thursday night in an English-language interview from Haiti broadcast primarily in the United States.
The winner of the Nov. 28 election will be faced with monumental tasks including rebuilding a capital destroyed by the magnitude-7 earthquake and dealing with an estimated 1.6 million homeless.
Before Jean's impending announcement, first reported Tuesday by AP, political observers in Haiti were most closely watching to see who would be chosen to carry the standard of the president's party.
Preval, who is barred by the constitution from running, created Unity last year. It quickly absorbed Cabinet ministers, the presidents of both parliamentary chambers and almost half the members of the lower house with promises of helping to finance their upcoming campaigns.
Alexis was brought on in 2006 as Preval's No. 2 and head of government, tasked with uniting a fractious Cabinet after the ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and two years of gang warfare under a U.S.-backed interim government.
Alexis was ousted by the Senate in April 2008 as Port-au-Prince melted down in a week of food riots that killed at least seven people including a U.N. police officer. He has since been largely invisible in Haiti, popping up now and then at speaking engagements in the United States.
Candidates have until Saturday to register. Scores are expected to seek the presidency, from small-town mayors and businessmen to other former heads of government.
All must be approved by an eight-member, presidentially approved electoral council that will verify constitutional requirements including having resided in Haiti for five consecutive years leading up to the election and never having held foreign citizenship.