Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Decision on who can run for Haiti’s presidency is delayed

By Miami Herald Staff and Wire Reports

It was unknown which of the 30-plus candidates will be allowed to run for Haiti’s presidency. A decision may come on Friday

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haiti’s electoral commission said late Tuesday that it was postponing its ruling on who will be allowed to run for president in November elections, leaving the candidacy of hip hop artist Wyclef Jean and more than 30 others in limbo.

A statement from the commission, known as the CEP, said it would postpone the announcement until Friday.

CEP spokesman Richardson Dumel said the eligibility requirements of a number of candidates were still under review. The decision to delay the release of the list is based on a “considerable number of appeals” by candidates and citizens, election officials said.

The delay was the latest bizarre turn in the fledgling presidential race in this earthquake-torn country.

Jean — one of dozens of candidates vying for the office — said he was in hiding Tuesday after receiving death threats. The musician disclosed the threats in a series of e-mails to The Associated Press, revealing few details. Jean said he was told to get out of Haiti and that he was in hiding in a secret location in the Caribbean country.

Members of Jean’s inner circle told The Miami Herald he was at his mother’s house in Cabaret. He could not be reached for comment.

The Haitian-born Jean said he did not know whetherthe CEP would approve his candidacy but that there had been questions about whether he met the residency requirement.

“We await the CEP decision but the laws of the Haitian Constitution must be respected,” he said in one of a flurry of e-mails.

Later in the evening, he sent the AP a one-word e-mail: “Hope!”

The constitution requires candidates to have lived in the country for the five consecutive years before the election. Jean knew his U.S. upbringing could be a roadblock to his candidacy, but has said his appointment as a roving ambassador by President René Préval in 2007 exempts him from the residency requirement.

Lawyers for the musician were at the CEP headquarters seeking to argue his case.

More than 30 people filed to run for president of a country still struggling to recover from the Jan. 12 earthquake, which destroyed thousands of buildings and killed an estimated 300,000 people.

Haiti’s president will preside over the spending of billions in foreign reconstruction aid in a country with a long history of political turmoil. Préval is not permitted to run for reelection.

Tuesday evening, dozens of local reporters gathered at the CEP headquarters to await the electoral body’s findings. Armed U.N. peacekeepers from India and Haitian police stood guard outside the office, a former Gold’s Gym seized by the government after the building’s owner was arrested on drug-trafficking charges. Former Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis waited upstairs at the CEP offices, where his candidacy had been protested.

CEP records obtained by The Miami Herald show that people listed as citizens contested the eligibility of some of the candidates, including Jean, Jude Celestin, former Prime Minister Alexis, former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, U.N. liaison Leslie Voltaire and musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly.

Two people contested Jean’s candidacy on the grounds that he does not meet the residency requirement. A justice of the peace, the records mention, went to the suburban neighborhood of Lassarre — where Jean stays when he visits Haiti — to interview a Vodou priest in an effort to establish Jean’s residency requirement.

The records say Jean submitted the required paperwork to prove his eligibility, which included a copy of his identity card and proof of residence.

Martelly, a konpa musician known for cross dressing and other over-the-top on-stage antics, had his candidacy challenged because somebody deemed him to be a “cult of immorality.” The evidence: an album called 400 percent Kaka Live 2001. The electoral board dismissed the challenge, saying Martelly has a clean record.

Meanwhile, several dozen Jean supporters marched and jogged in the streets of Pétionville, a block away from the barricaded CEP headquarters.

Not everybody supported Jean. “He doesn’t have the capacity to be president,” said Jean Patrick Bernaud, 37, an employee in a rubble-removal cash-for-work program. “He would make a better radio director. He understands music.”

As the nation waited for word on who could run for president, members of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission approved 29 projects, from debris removal to job creation in agriculture, totaling $1.6 billion.

“It’s really sad to see after six months there is still not really enough money,” said J. Billy Louis, a South Florida resident who serves on the commission. “The population is expecting more than what we have received so far.”

Earlier this year, the international donor community pledged $5.3 billion toward Haiti’s reconstruction. But the money has been slow in coming, evidenced by the fact that of the 29 projects presented, only 11, costing about $700 million, are fully funded.

Among the projects that will receive money is a partly funded $94.2 million back-to-school program. The Inter-American Development Bank has committed $26 million towards helping to provide school vouchers, uniforms, debris removal and temporary shelters for students.

Miami Herald staff writers Jacqueline Charles and Trenton Daniel in Port-au-Prince contributed to this report.

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