Wyclef Jean will officially end the suspense about his political ambitions on Thursday, when he is expected to announce plans to run for president in his native Haiti.
According to CNN, an unnamed source close to Jean — who was born on the earthquake-ravaged Caribbean island and raised in Brooklyn, New York — confirmed that the former Fugees leader will end weeks of speculation by making the exclusive announcement on “Larry King Live.”
Jean, 37, was one of the first celebrities to make a plea for help in the wake of January’s devastating earthquake, which leveled much of the island’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and left more than 1.5 million citizens homeless. He has raised millions through his Yele Haiti foundation and visited the country a number of times since the disaster.
Jean told CNN last month that he had filled out the necessary paperwork to make a run for president in Haiti. ’Clef was named ambassador-at-large for the country by current President Rene Preval in 2007. Haiti’s new president will be chosen in elections happening on November 28; the winner is expected to be sworn in on February 7, 2011. Preval is barred from seeking re-election because he will have served the maximum two five-year terms.
The former head of the country’s Chamber of Deputies confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday that Jean would be running as part of his coalition. Former Deputy Eric Jean-Jacques, who is looking to return to his Chamber of Deputies position, said Jean will join his Ansanm Nou Fo (“Together we are strong”) coalition, but said he would not elaborate in order to allow Wyclef to make the announcement himself. Jean is expected to make it official with King on Thursday in a remote interview from Haiti. A spokesperson for the singer’s family did not return requests for comment at press time.
Wyclef is likely to be the most well-known potential candidate, but he has shied away from making any definitive statement about his intentions to date. His family released a statement last week in response to the speculation: “Wyclef’s commitment to his homeland and its youth is boundless, and he will remain its greatest supporter regardless of whether he is part of the government moving forward. At this time, Wyclef Jean has not announced his intent to run for Haitian president. If and when a decision is made, media will be alerted immediately.”
Among his potential rivals is his uncle Raymond Joseph, Haiti’s ambassador to Washington, as well as some former prime ministers and another popular Haitian musician, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly.
In a recent interview with the AP, Jean said he was planning to be involved in the elections, but not necessarily as a candidate.
“Do I have political intentions? At this time, no,” he said. “But what I do have is a movement — it’s called Face à Face, ’Face to Face.’ The youth population … we are going to encourage them to vote.” Jean has raised money for Haitian youth through his Yele Haiti foundation, which hired a new accounting firm after allegations arose about some financial irregularities in the wake of the January quake.
The AP noted that even if Jean did change his mind and decide to throw his hat in the ring by the August 7 deadline, his celebrity would not guarantee an easy road as a candidate in a country where elections are often contentious and violent. There is also the matter of the massive destruction caused by the quake, which killed more than 300,000 in a country that has not had a functioning economy in decades.
In order to enter the race, Jean would have to prove he has resided in Haiti for five consecutive years, owns property in the country and has never been a citizen of any other country than Haiti; it was unclear at press time if Jean fits those criteria.
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