|Thurs, August 19, 2010 at 2:22 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Questions over whether Haitian hip-hop star Wyclef Jean meets the legal requirements to run for the presidency of his earthquake-ravaged homeland have stirred feverish expectation and fears that political tensions could bedevil the arduous post-quake reconstruction.
Uncertainty in the poor, volatile Caribbean state has jumped since the electoral authority postponed to Friday an announcement set for Tuesday of which candidates were qualified to run in the November 28 election. The poll will choose a successor to President Rene Preval, who cannot stand again.
Jean, a 40-year-old singer-songwriter and international celebrity who is widely popular in Haiti, figures on a list of 34 presidential contenders who include veteran politicians. His candidacy and that of several others is being challenged.
The political temperature is rising at a time when Haiti is struggling to recover from a magnitude 7 earthquake that struck the teeming capital and surrounding area on January 12, killing up to 300,000 people and dealing a crippling blow to the already underdeveloped economy of the poorest state in the Americas.
Here are some questions and answers about the issues and risks surrounding Friday's decision on Jean's candidacy:
WHY IS WYCLEF JEAN'S CANDIDACY UNDER SCRUTINY?
Haitian electoral law stipulates that candidates must have had five consecutive years of residency in the country. There are questions about whether Jean, who went with his family to live in New York at the age of nine and launched his music career in the United States, fulfills this requirement.
He and his lawyers argue that he does. They cite his Haitian passport, his rural family home at Lassere outside Port-au-Prince and his share in local commercial TV station Telemax. They say he has maintained a "constant presence" in Haiti since 2005, while arguing his appointment in 2007 as a roving "ambassador-at-large" for Haiti involved some inevitable absences from the country.
Jean's tax compliance situation has also come under scrutiny, both in Haiti and the United States. His lawyers say they have presented documents demonstrating his compliance in Haiti and the singer himself says he is dealing with reported problems with U.S. authorities over his U.S. income tax.
Besides these legal issues, Jean has also faced questions about whether an international celebrity with no political experience is the best person to lead a chronically poor and corrupt nation that is coming out of a devastating disaster.
He says that this international status will be an asset in securing funds and partners to help rebuild the nation.
"We are waiting patiently for the electoral council to release the results," he told Reuters Wednesday.
COULD THERE BE UNREST IF HIS CANDIDACY IS REJECTED?
Yes. Jean's presidential bid has 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 that feels threatened by him.
In the still rubble-strewn streets of the wrecked capital, slogans scrawled in Creole on the walls reading "Youth supports Youth" and "Wyclef means change" testify to the powerful political energy generated by his candidacy.
But this could turn sour and violent if the electoral council rejects his candidacy. Many may suspect powerful political and business elites had a hand in torpedoing his bi