Wyclef Jean is a Grammy-winning hip-hop performer who has announced his candidacy for president of Haiti in the Nov. 28, 2010, election. On August 20, Haiti’s electoral council announced that Mr. Jean had been disqualified as a candidate. Giving no explanation, a council spokesman simply read the list of 19 presidential aspirants deemed eligible and 15, including Mr. Jean, judged ineligible.
Mr. Jean said that his lawyers would challenge the ruling.
The decision on whether to eliminate Mr. Jean was considered extremely delicate. Despite his lack of political experience, Mr. Jean had been considered a potential front-runner from the moment he announced his candidacy in the first week of August, and has maintained a base of passionate supporters, most prominently in Haiti’s youth.
Mr. Jean had said he fit the citizenship requirement because he holds a Haitian passport. The residency requirement — five consecutive years before the Nov. 28 election — might have been more difficult. Mr. Jean was born in Haiti but moved to the United States at age 9. Mr. Jean argued he should not be disqualified on the basis of the residency requirement because he is a goodwill ambassador for Haiti, appointed by Mr. Préval with a mandate to rove the world.
The Haitian earthquake in January 2010 raised the musician’s profile and brought his small nonprofit group Yélé Haiti more than $10.5 million through July 31, of which just under a third has been spent, according to the charity.
How Mr. Jean, a celebrity with no experience in politics, has guided his charity offers one barometer of his ability to lead. After questions arose about the charity’s finances, including accounting and bookkeeping practices, Mr. Jean responded that Yélé’s business practices had been overhauled and improved.
In the past, Mr. Jean blurred boundaries between his personal, business and philanthropic enterprises. His charity paid his production company for benefit concerts featuring Mr. Jean, and paid his Haitian television station for promotions that also featured him. After the earthquake, the television station, its building badly damaged, broadcast rent-free from Yéle’s new estate.
To his many ardent supporters in Haiti, Mr. Jean’s championing of the Haitian cause was more important than any missteps at Yéle — and Mr. Jean has acknowledged making mistakes.
To Mr. Jean’s skeptics, indications that he has poorly handled money at Yéle and in his personal life — with $2.1 million in tax liens against his house in Saddle River, N.J., which Mr. Jean says he is addressing, and an unfinished Miami mansion lost to foreclosure — raised concerns about a presidential candidate for a shattered country pledged billions in reconstruction aid.
Many young Haitians support Mr. Jean and view his success and continued allegiance to Haiti with pride. His unusual candidacy was also perceived as an intriguing phenomenon that could have raised national and international interest in the election.
Mr. Jean became famous as the leader of the pop and rap group, the Fugees. Since the group disbanded, he has released a smattering of solo albums, created a handful of collaborative hits and found various ways to strengthen his ties to Haiti.
Mr. Jean, who brings politics and wit to his explosive rapping, sings, plays guitar, can straddle old hip-hop, older reggae and older-yet rock ‘n’ roll, as well as Haitian carnival music in his fusion of sounds. The guitar-playing musician has also made no secret of his desire to become a 21st-century version of Bob Marley.