Wyclef Jean not abandoning presidential bid; lawyers to appeal decision rejecting candidacy
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Hip-hop singer Wyclef Jean said Sunday he is not abandoning his presidential bid just yet and will try to get the courts to overturn a decision disqualifying him from the race.
Speaking to The Associated Press by telephone from his home in Croix des Bouquets, Jean said his lawyers will file an appeal with the national electoral dispute office.
Jean said that he has a document "which shows everything is correct" and that he and his aides "feel that what is going on here has everything to do with Haitian politics."
"They are trying to keep us out of the race," he said, referring to Haiti's political establishment.
Haiti's elections board rejected Jean's candidacy Friday night — presumably because it decided he didn't meet residency requirements, although the board did not cite a specific reason. Under Haitian law, a presidential candidate must have lived in the country for five consecutive years leading up to the election.
Jean has argued that he was not required to comply with the law so strictly because after President Rene Preval appointed him as roving ambassador in 2007, he was allowed to travel and live outside the country.
Some officials in Haiti worried about political unrest among Jean supporters after his candidacy was rejected. But the singer asked his fans to stay calm, and there were no significant election-related protests or violence over the weekend — although rumors swirled about a large protest planned for Monday.
Many people in Jean's hometown of Croix des Bouquets — a suburb of the capital, Port-au-Prince — cheered the singer Sunday in his quest for the presidency.
"I love what Wyclef is doing," said Paul Jean Augustine, a 27-year-old mechanic. "We're ready to die for Clef, and without him there's no election. We are with him 100 percent."
Although he issued a statement late Friday saying that "I respectfully accept the committee's final decision," the 40-year-old singer said Sunday that he is appealing the Haitian board's decision on the basis that it rejected his candidacy before the national electoral dispute office, or BCEN, could issue a final ruling on the residency issue.
Jean said that shortly after he filed his papers to run in the Nov. 28 election, two Haitian citizens challenged his candidacy, saying he had not met the residency requirements.
The BCEN ruled in his favor, Jean asserted, but the two citizens appealed the decision. The case was still pending when the Haitian elections board decided to disqualify Jean, the singer said.
It was not clear whether Jean's legal argument would hold up. Elections board spokesman Richardson Dumel said that as of Sunday afternoon, he had not seen any paperwork from the candidate indicating an appeal, but he declined to comment further.
The board on Friday accepted 19 candidates and rejected 15. A spokesman read out the names of the approved and rejected candidates quickly at a late, hastily called news conference.
It would have helped both candidates and voters if the council had explained the basis of their decisions, said officials from the Joint Mission of Electoral Observation, a division of the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community.
"Regarding the 15 candidacies that were deemed ineligible, explications about the reasons for invalidating them would have contributed to the transparency of the process," the OAS wrote in a news release issued Saturday.
Jean said he had planned to leave the country this weekend to see his family in New Jersey, but has decided to stay in Haiti to see the appeal process through.
Shortly after informing the AP of his decision Sunday morning, Jean announced it again on his Twitter feed, saying: "Tomorrow our Lawyers are appealing the decision of the CEP. We have met all the requirements set by the laws. And the law must be Respected."