Wyclef Jean's failed presidential bid: The fallout

Haitian officials say the hip-hop star is ineligible to run for president. Is this a victory or a defeat for democracy?

Wyclef Jean
(Image credit: Getty)

Haiti's election board has ruled that hip-hop star Wyclef Jean is ineligible to run for president in his earthquake-ravaged homeland, a decision some worried could spark protests from his mostly young supporters. Jean had said late Friday that, with a "heavy heart," he would respect the the board's ruling, and he urged his supporters to do the same. But on Sunday he said via Twitter that he would appeal — although election commission's spokesman said decisions on eligibility are final. Will the dispute over Jean's candidacy disrupt the campaign? (Watch an AP report about the ruling)

No, this is actually a good sign: "Score one for the rule of law in Haiti," say the editors of The Economist. Haitian election rules state plainly that all presidential candidates must have lived in the country for the last five years, and Wyclef Jean has lived in the U.S. so long he speaks his native Creole with a heavy accent. Disqualifying him is a meaningful step toward addressing Haiti's history of "messy elections."

"Clef fallen"

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Disqualifying Jean makes the election seem less legitimate: Wyclef Jean is a source of great pride for his countrymen, says Patricia Williams in Britain's Guardian, so he may have been just the candidate the Haitian people needed to begin healing after the earthquake. Haiti is full of outsiders — humanitarian organizations, foreign corporations, missionaries — trying to help. But Jean is a native son who held out the promise of "mending [Haiti's] national identity."

"It's no wonder the Haitians wanted Wyclef Jean"

Jean's supporters will get over their disappointment: Wyclef Jean's candidacy stoked "enthusiasm among the country's restless, widely unemployed youth," says Joseph Guyler Delva at Reuters. But unlike the last candidate to electrify the masses — exiled former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide — there's just no evidence that a millionaire showman from Brooklyn can "fully capture the support" of Haiti's overwhelmingly poor masses.

"Analysis: No major Haiti risk seen from Wyclef election bar"

The decision's made — now on to the task ahead: "I know Wyclef Jean," says Haitian-American novelist Edwige Danticat in The Miami Herald, and, although "I cannot vouch for him" as a political leader, "I must admit that I initially found his candidacy exciting." But now that the electoral council has spoken, everybody, Jean and his supporters included, must "remain calm" and "return to the less exciting and more somber business at hand." Rebuilding Haiti is a "Sisyphean task," and the next president will need all the help he or she can get.

"Barred from ballot, Wyclef remains an inspiration"

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