Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Wyclef for President? Not So Fast

By Ryan Tracy, Newsweek

The musician claims he is exempt from Haiti’s Constitution, but experts say the argument won’t fly.

Even before Wyclef Jean said he would run for president in Haiti, the prospect of conducting a nationwide election there presented a huge logistical challenge for anyone. After a January earthquake decimated governmental infrastructure, records of registered voters were buried in rubble. Many Haitians lost their voter identification cards. Many public employees who ran the electoral bureaucracy were killed.

Legally and politically, that’s a perilous position, says Brian Concannon, a lawyer and Haitian human-rights expert who is executive director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy. “It’s such an obvious no-brainer constitutionally,” Concannon says. “There’s nothing in Haitian law,” in the Constitution or elsewhere, that would justify an exemption based on being a goodwill ambassador. And even if there were, Jean has only held the post for three consecutive years. During that time, his U.S. residency was sufficient for the Internal Revenue Service to demand he pay $2.1 million in back taxes, as the Smoking Gun noted on August 4. To hold Jean responsible for the taxes, the IRS placed a lien on a house he owns in Saddle River, N.J.

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