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Haitian Singer Wyclef Jean, 14 Other Candidates Barred from Presidential Vote

Haitian election officials have excluded U.S.-based singer Wyclef Jean and 14 other candidates from running for the country's presidency. Jean's campaign had generated considerable interest in the November ballot.

Haiti's electoral council released its final list of candidates late Friday, after a delay that officials said was necessary to study the eligibility of the 34 people who were seeking to run for president.

Officials said 19 people were qualified, including former prime minister Yvon Neptune, former prime minister Jacques Edouard Alexis and Jude Celestin, who has the backing of President Rene Preval's Unity party.

They said 15 others failed to meet a set of legal requirements, such as owning a residence in Haiti and living in the country for the past five years.

Watch Footage of Wyclef Jean and the Haitian Election Announcement

U.S.-based singer Wyclef Jean had met with President Rene Preval and other officials this week in an effort to resolve concerns about his application, especially the residency requirement.

As a child, Jean moved with his family to the United States, where he later launched his music career. But lawyers for the 40-year-old singer argued he should have been exempt from the rule because he has served as a roving ambassador for Haiti for the past two years.

The singer has generated considerable interest in Haiti and elsewhere about the November 28th vote.

Hyppolite Pierre runs a consulting group in Maryland that focusses on human rights and development issues in Haiti. He says many Haitians embrace Jean because of a charity he founded in Haiti.

"People are looking for someone who can bring not just stability but confidence. And because of Wyclef's charity work in Haiti and [the fact] he is not associated with the system in general, he connects much easier with the general population, with the poor," he said.

Pierre says Jean set an example that other candidates may follow during the campaign, specifically by trying to address the concerns of Haiti's youth and others who feel disconnected from politics.

The biggest issue for all candidates, however, is likely to be the monumental task of rebuilding after a January earthquake that hit the capital, killing 230,000 people.

At a May conference, foreign governments and other donors pledged nearly $10 billion for recovery and reconstruction efforts. The next president will have to work closely with a newly formed recovery commission that includes Haitian officials, foreign advisors and donor partners.

Hyppolite Pierre says some candidates will be eager to show voters they can foster a close relationship with the recovery commission.

"I don't think they have much of a choice, because you don't run a country unless there is an economy going. And that is going to be the major engine of the Haitian economy, at least for the next five to 10 years," said Pierre.

Yves Colon, a former journalist who now teaches at the University of Miami, says many candidates may want to keep the recovery commission at arm's length, at least during the campaign. He says nationalism often plays a key role in Haitian elections, and candidates may seek to convince voters that foreign interests do not have too strong a voice in the next administration.

After the vote, he says the next government will face new challenges in working with the recovery commission that issues rebuilding contracts.

"Once these things have already been awarded, what happens now? What can this president do, and what kind of voice is he going to have in the affairs of the states?" he asked.

One key task of rebuilding is to find new homes for government buildings that were damaged in the earthquake, including the presidential palace.