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Wyclef Jean Challenges Ruling on Haitian Election Application

Wyclef Jean (file photo)

Wyclef Jean (file photo)

Haitian-born singer Wyclef Jean is criticizing Haiti's election officials for blocking his application to run for president in November elections. Jean says the ruling discriminates against Haitians who have lived outside the country.

U.S.-based singer Wyclef Jean is not giving up his hopes to run for Haiti's president in elections set for November.

At first, the 37-year-old singer said would accept the decision of election officials who announced Friday that he and 14 candidates would not be allowed on the ballot. Later, he vowed to appeal the ruling, which found he did not satisfy rules requiring all candidates to have lived in Haiti for the past five years.

As a child, Jean and his family moved from Haiti to the United States, where he later launched his music career. In recent years, he has served as roving ambassador to Haiti, and Jean's lawyers say they filed paperwork with election officials to document his status.

In an interview with VOA's Creole service, Jean said he has documents showing that Haiti's government accepted his residency status, but the electoral council rejected his bid for president anyway. "So if I don't have residency and I didn't prove by law that we have five years residency, then why is that piece of paper signed? That means we have proved the residency issue," he said.

Officials with the provisional election council say the decision is final and there is no method to appeal the ruling.

Jean told VOA he is appealing to Haiti's government to address a number of concerns about the approval process used by election officials, who authorized 19 candidates for the presidential vote. He said candidates who have lived outside Haiti were mostly excluded by the provisional electoral council, or CEP. "It looked like every other candidate that was out was a diaspora candidate and that is a form of prejudice on the CEP's part," he said.

As part of his election campaign, Jean had hoped to reform the relationship between Haiti and the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who have fled the country. He said, if elected, he hoped to change the constitution to remove a ban on dual citizenship, and offer many Haitians abroad a chance to vote in elections.

Many Haitians rely on money from family members abroad, who send back more than $1.5 billion a year. But Haitians outside the country say residency requirements and other laws can limit their legal rights in their home country.

Whether or not he is allowed to compete in the election, Jean says he hopes to open a dialogue about the diaspora's role inside Haiti. "Things have to change. We have to look at these electoral laws, we have to look at the constitution again. We have to look at the way we are being represented as the diaspora," he said.

Outside of politics, Wyclef told VOA that he is continuing to work in Haiti to expand community service programs and create new business opportunities inside the country.