PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Hip-hop star Wyclef Jean’s bid to run for Haiti’s presidency hung in the balance on Friday as the earthquake-ravaged Caribbean country waited for its electoral authority to publish the final list of approved candidates.
U.N. and Haitian police guarded the provisional electoral council headquarters in Port-au-Prince to prevent any trouble as feverish expectations mounted over which of the 34 original contenders would be on the confirmed list for the November 28 presidential election.
Late on Thursday, a council member, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that locally popular 40-year-old singer-songwriter and international celebrity Jean was not on the list because he failed to satisfy several legal requirements.
It was feared his exclusion and that of other contenders from the electoral race on legal grounds could stir political tensions and even possible violence. Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is struggling to recover from the devastating January 12 earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people.
The electoral council had postponed from Tuesday until Friday the announcement of the list of approved candidates.
Key among the complicating requirements for Jean was believed to be a stipulation candidates needed to have had five consecutive years of residency in Haiti.
Jean, who left his impoverished homeland with his family to live in New York at the age of 9 and launched his music career in the United States, had presented arguments his lawyers said showed a “constant presence.”
In a message on his Twitter account, Jean said: “We await the decision of the Electoral Council,To see if I made the list as a Candidate. As it is written So Shall it be Done!”
Earlier, his campaign released a statement saying he appealed to the population to remain calm.
Besides Jean, eight other contenders out of the original 34 faced legal challenges to their candidacies.
Patrols of U.N. and Haitian police were also visible on Friday morning in Port-au-Prince’s still rubble-strewn streets, but the city was calm.
The U.N. mission called on candidates to respect electoral law and democracy and keep as a priority the country’s reconstruction following the earthquake that wrecked the capital and dealt a heavy blow to the underdeveloped economy.
Jean’s jump into politics galvanized the Haitian political scene, triggering enthusiasm among the country’s restless, widely unemployed youth, who see him as a refreshing symbol of home-grown hope, and alarm among the traditional Haitian political elite who seemed to feel threatened by him.
Slogans scrawled in Creole on city walls reading: “Youth supports Youth” and “Wyclef means change” testified to his support among the young, and youth and Creole musical groups had already declared their backing for his candidacy.
Some young Haitians said they would not vote in the November elections if Jean was not a candidate.
“There are a lot of politicians who say they have a lot of experience, big diplomas, but I don’t see what they have done for this country. We are still the poorest country in the region,” said 19-year-old Ashley Simon.
“The best leader is not necessarily someone who has big diplomas. It is someone who has a heart and who understands the situation of the people and Wyclef shows he understands the miserable situation of the Haitian people,” he added,
Asked late on Thursday what he would do if his candidacy was turned down, Jean told CNN’s “Larry King Live” that he and the youth and political groups supporting him would look to work with any administration to help Haiti’s children.
“That’s something that we’re going to push on whether ... I make it or not,” he said.
Jean, who said this week he had gone into hiding after receiving death threats, told Reuters on Wednesday that he would not promote violence if his candidacy was rejected.
Other candidates who faced legal challenges were former two-time Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, Leslie Voltaire, a U.S.-educated urban planner and former minister, and Yvon Neptune, another former prime minister who served under former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The presidential contenders include Raymond Joseph, Jean’s uncle and former Haitian ambassador to the United States, and well-known opposition leader and former first lady Mirlande Manigat.
Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Eric Beech