By Deborah Sontag, New York Times
Haiti’s electoral council announced late Friday evening that Wyclef Jean, the Haitian-born hip-hop star, had been disqualified as a candidate for president of his earthquake-shattered homeland.
No explanation was given. A spokesman for the council, Richardson Dumel, facing reporters who had been standing vigil at the election bureau all day, read a list of 19 presidential aspirants deemed eligible and 15, including Mr. Jean, whose candidacy had been rejected.
But in a statement, Mr. Jean said he was rejected because he did not meet the requirement of having lived in Haiti for five consecutive years before the Nov. 28 elections. Born in Haiti, Mr. Jean left as a child for the United States and now, based in New Jersey, travels often to his homeland.
The statement said his heart was heavy but that he accepted the decision and urged his followers to do the same.
“We must all honor the memories of those we’ve lost — whether in the earthquake, or at anytime — by responding peacefully and responsibly to this disappointment,” the statement said.
Tensions had been building throughout the day after the council’s decision to reject Mr. Jean was leaked late Thursday but not confirmed. Hundreds of Mr. Jean’s passionate supporters had rallied in the Delmas area of the capital, chanting, “We want Clef, Clef is Haiti and Haiti is for Clef.”
The police and United Nations peacekeeping troops prepared for the possibility of unrest after a rejection of Mr. Jean’s bid.
The electoral council waited until long after darkness had fallen to issue its list of approved presidential candidates, originally due Tuesday. And it did so at its Pétionville bureau, and not at the office in Delmas where the crowds had gathered.
Afterward, Mr. Jean, who had been waiting at a nearby hotel to hold a news conference after the announcement, reportedly left the area to return to his hometown of Laserre, outside Port-au-Prince.
His short-lived candidacy, announced in the first week of August, had electrified Haiti and drawn global attention back to the beleaguered country. It also drew scrutiny to the musician’s charity, Yéle Haiti, and questions about Mr. Jean’s ability to take on the enormous task of helping Haiti recover and rebuild.
All Friday, the Haitian news media discussed the possibility that Mr. Jean would be disqualified. But Mr. Jean issued periodic messages on Twitter on Friday suggesting that the final decision had not been made and that he, too, was in a state of suspense.
“We await the decision of the Electoral Council, to see if I made the list as a candidate,” one message said. “As it is written so shall it be done!”
For a couple of days, Mr. Jean had isolated himself in a family home in Laserre, saying he had received death threats and felt safer there. On Thursday afternoon, he ventured out to see President René Préval, prompting speculation that the departing president was asking Mr. Jean to prevail upon his followers to accept whatever decision the electoral council made.
On Friday, Mr. Jean sent a message to his supporters urging calm, Haitian radio stations reported. He also posted photographs on Twitter of his meeting with the president: “This is another pic of me n President René Préval from Yesterday’s Meeting. Very positive. Smiles all the way.”
The candidates approved to run for the presidency of Haiti include: Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady and university administrator; Yvon Neptune, a former prime minister; Leslie Voltaire, an architect active in reconstruction planning; and Michel Martelly, a musician known as Sweet Micky.
The electoral council was supposed to issue its list of approved presidential candidates on Tuesday, but it delayed that move in order to scrutinize the eligibility not just of Mr. Jean but of many others in the field of 34 contenders.
The decision on whether to eliminate Mr. Jean was considered the most delicate, however. Despite his lack of political experience, Mr. Jean had been considered a potential front-runner from the moment he announced his candidacy in the first week of August. At that time, he described himself as having been “drafted” to run by the youth of Haiti.
“I didn’t create this hurricane, this tsunami you’re feeling in the last couple of days,” he said in an interview before announcing his candidacy.
In an interview this month, Mr. Jean said he believed he met the eligibility requirements for a presidential candidate. He said he never abandoned his Haitian citizenship; he holds a Haitian passport and an American green card, or legal permanent residency.
He also said he should not be disqualified on the basis of the residency requirement because he is a good-will ambassador for Haiti, appointed by Mr. Préval with a mandate to rove the world.
Vladimir Laguerre contributed reporting from Pétionville, Haiti.
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