On Thursday night, Wyclef Jean will respond to rumors about a potential run to become the next president of Haiti by officially announcing his candidacy on Larry King Live. Jean traveled to his native Haiti in late July to assemble the required documentation for an August 7th deadline that would allow him to run for president of the devastated country in its November elections. Jean’s spokeswoman confirmed he’ll make an announcement Thursday night in Haiti; the country’s former head of the country’s Chamber of Deputies tells the AP the musician will run as part of his coalition.
According to his brother and spokesman, Sam Jean, Wyclef was deeply affected by the calamitous earthquake in January, especially when he returned to his homeland with his fundraising and relief organization Yéle Haiti. “He saw they need much more help than he could provide himself,” Sam says. “If he got involved, there’s a opportunity to really affect the lives of the youth in Haiti. It’s one thing to say, ‘Get involved.’ It’s another thing to actually do it.” Wyclef has also recently released a new song, “The Day After,” about his trip to the country following the earthquake. The track will be included on his in-progress album, The Haitian Experience.
Wyclef will campaign on positive but vague goals like improving education, creating jobs and rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. Though Haiti has strict rules for those running for office, such as candidates must have lived in the country for at least five consecutive years, the singer was likely able to circumvent the rule by way of his honorary title as the country’s ambassador at large.
Other hurdles to Wyclef’s election include his uncle, Raymond Joseph — Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S. — who has announced a presidential bid, and reports earlier this year that Yéle Haiti misused donations, including paying Wyclef’s expenses for a charity concert. (Wyclef denied the accusations.) “Haiti is different,” counters Sam. “They’re not as puritanical as here. They’re very forgiving people, and also practical. Their question will be, ‘How can he help the country?’ ”
Working in Wyclef’s favor are his recent trips to the country in the wake of the earthquake, the lack of charismatic opponents and the popularity of his music. “People in Haiti say, ‘My goodness, he could be elected, but is that what we want?’ ” says Robert Fatton, a Haitian-born professor at the University of Virginia. “But he has mobilized the youth, and his music resonates in the urban slums and the refugee camps. In Haiti, you need to have good music to connect with the population.”