Wyclef Jean’s Presidential Campaign Stalled

Singer Wyclef Jean’s says he’ll appeal a decision by the Haitian election board, rejecting his presidential candidacy because he didn't meet the residency requirement. Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles reports on the Haitian presidential elections and the remaining candidates on the ballot.

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ALLISON KEYES, host:

I'm Allison Keyes, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is away.

Coming up, he became an Internet sensation in the wake of a TV interview, in the wake of an attempted sexual assault of his sister. Antoine Dodson speaks about his newfound fame, and whether his popularity cost him his dignity.

But first, singer Wyclef Jean sparked a firestorm of interest when he announced plans to run for president in Haiti. But that country's election board rejected his candidacy Friday night, apparently because he didn't meet the requirement that candidates maintain five consecutive years of residency in Haiti prior to running.

But yesterday, Jean said he isn't giving up his quest for office just yet. He says his lawyers will file an appeal, even though an election board spokesman says there's no legal mechanism for doing that.

Jacqueline Charles, a reporter from the Miami Herald, has been following the situation closely and joins us now from Port-au-Prince. Hey, Jackie.

Ms. JACQUELINE CHARLES (Reporter, Miami Herald): Hi, how are you? Thanks for having me.

KEYES: Thanks for joining us. So, tell us, where does this leave the election? The board accepted and rejected a number of candidates, but kind of didn't explain its reasoning for any of that, right?

Ms. CHARLES: Well, I mean here's reality. I mean in terms of Wyclef Jean, there was a file, about 20-page document, a legal document on why he did not meet eligibility for these elections. And anyone who follows Haiti elections hopefully it's no rocket science in terms of what those reasonings could have been or what possibly they were.

I think that ultimately in the end, what we've seen is a very high profile individual, you know, who was born here in Haiti, who wanted to run for elections and did not succeed. And (unintelligible) PR machine kicked in. But as the spokesperson for the electoral commission said, there is no appeals process. Well, even his lawyers are now saying that they were going to appeal. They were very much aware that the decision was a final decision.

KEYES: So basically he's done.

Ms. CHARLES: It was also after yes, basically he is done. And there are 19 candidates in this election. And let's just say there's an election plan for November 28th because it is a very complicated process. It's a very complicated race. And, you know, and why Wyclef Jean's candidacy brought a lot of international attention to the elections because he's no longer part of the process, along with 14 others. It does not mean that suddenly Haiti will not have elections or the elections are no more.

KEYES: Jacqueline, really briefly, are there any of the other candidates that have the same cache that he does? Is there a frontrunner now?

Ms. CHARLES: Well, there's a couple of frontrunners. I mean, you know, the thing when you look at the 19 candidates, you have a former Jacques Edouard Alexis, who's a former two-time prime minister under President Rene Preval. You've got a guy like Leslie Voltaire, who's a Cornell-educated urban planner. You have Preval's own pick, Jude Celestin, who's a Swiss-educated, you know, mechanical engineer.

In the Haitian context, yes, there are frontrunners. But I think from the international audience, Wyclef Jean certainly has the name recognition. And he was the name that everybody recognized. And for these candidates who remain who are now trying to win the presidency, the problem that they have is they're all going to be fishing in the same pond more or less. They're going to be going after the same voter base, and that's what makes it a very complicated election in the Haitian context.

But there are people here, like Sweet Micky or Michel Martelly, who is a konpa star, who is the one who introduced Wyclef Jean to Haitian audiences years ago. So I think that we have to look at this from an international perspective, but also from a Haiti perspective. And at the end of the day, whoever's elected is going to be president of Haiti.

KEYES: Jacqueline, sorry, got to cut you off. We are out of time. Jacqueline Charles is a reporter from the Miami Herald. She joined us from Haiti. Thank you much.

Ms. CHARLES: Thank you.

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