Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE — Hip-hop singer Wyclef Jean said he was not abandoning his presidential bid just yet and would try to get the courts to overturn a decision disqualifying him from the race.
Speaking to The Associated Press by telephone from his home Sunday, Aug. 22, in Croix des Bouquets, Jean said his lawyers would 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, Aug. 20, 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.
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 Aug. 20 saying that “I respectfully accept the committee’s final decision,” the 40-year-old singer said Sunday that he was 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 elections board decided to disqualify Jean, the singer said.