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Wyclef Jean, President of Haiti: Do Haitians like the sound of that?

Hip hop star Wyclef Jean has filed the necessary paperwork to run in Haiti's Nov. 28 election. Haiti is abuzz with talk of a Wyclef presidency, but not all young people like the idea.

By Alice SperiCorrespondent / July 27, 2010

Recording artist Wyclef Jean, right, is interviewed by host Stuart Varney on the "Varney and Company" program on the Fox Business Network, in New York Friday, July 23. Mr. Jean is considering running in Haiti's Nov. 28 presidential election.

Richard Drew/AP


Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Haitian-born, New York-raised hip hop star Wyclef Jean is considering running in Haiti's Nov. 28 presidential election, according to an official statement the singer’s family distributed to the media. The 37-year-old former Fugee has filed all necessary papers and has until Aug. 7 to formally declare his intention to run.

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Mr. Jean is expected to travel to Haiti later this week and may answer questions about his candidacy. Until then, the devastated nation of 10 million will be buzzing with speculation. But while the singer is very popular in Haiti, especially among the young, many on Tuesday reacted to the news of his possible candidacy with the same skepticism and indifference they expressed for other political candidates.

“It’s difficult for Haitians to have any faith in the election, we are so used to politicians taking advantage of us,” says Anise Ulysse, a 27-year-old who shrugged at the prospect of the singer running. She said she will not vote for anyone. “The people living on the streets have other things to think about.”

Ms. Ulysse, who says she likes Wyclef’s music but prefers Celine Dion, also raised doubts about his understanding of Haiti. “I don’t really think he knows the country,” she said. “He’s like an American.”

Jean should stick to music, but his popularity may successfully get him to a seat for which he has no experience, says 26 year-old Marie Lacrete.

“I don’t have a problem with Wyclef, but he’s not the right person to be president. He’s a musician, not a politician,” says Ms. Lacrete, adding that the singer didn't graduate from college.

Lacrete, who has a degree in agronomy but works as a secretary, said that Haiti’s problem is that the right person is never in the right place. “Still, people will vote for him, because he has money and he’s popular and because they don’t know what they are doing.”

Splitting time between US and Haiti

Many in Haiti had expected the announcement. Jean had previously denied an intention to seek office, though he played with the idea in his 2006 hit “If I Was President.” The song’s video – set in the US – shows the artist singing “Election time is coming, who you gonna vote for?” as fans hold signs saying “Wyclef for President.”

In the 24 hours after the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the country’s capital, killing over 230,000 and displacing some 2 million, Jean’s foundation, Yele Haiti, raised over $1 million in text-message donations, though the organization subsequently came under fire for mismanagement of funds and corruption.