Wyclef Jean drops bid for Haiti presidency. Is 'Sweet Micky' the next best thing?

Wyclef Jean said the decision came from 'weeks of quiet but painstaking reflection.' The hip-hop star's absence opens the field to other candidates.

By , Staff writer

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    In this Aug. 18 file photo, Haiti's presidential candidate and hip hop singer Wyclef Jean, spoke during an interview at his mother's house in Croix de Bouquets, Haiti.
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Wyclef Jean officially dropped his Haitian presidential bid Tuesday but pledged to stay active in Haitian politics.

"After weeks of quiet but painstaking reflection with my wife and daughter, I have chosen to end my bid for the presidency of Haiti," he said in a statement. "Some battles are best fought off the field, and that is where we take this now."

Mr. Jean is now planning to release a new album next year potentially titled "If I Were President, the Haitian Experience," says his brother and spokesman, Sam Jean. "Sometimes you have to get involved in the political process. Running for president is not the only way," he told the Monitor.

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The Grammy-winning musician is wildly popular among Haitian youth, and his presence electrified citizens in a country that suffers chronically low voter turnout. The parliamentary election in 2009 had a mere 11 percent voter turnout.

IN PICTURES: Wyclef for President

"One of the great things that Wyclef was bringing to the electoral contest was that young people would get involved in the electoral process," says Eduardo Gamarra, a political scientist at Florida International University. "Some people are concerned that Wyclef's not being able to run could have the opposite affect of making the young people less prone to go to the polls on Nov. 28."

But other candidates with the potential to motivate young voters remain in the race. Haitian musician Michel ("Sweet Micky") Martelly, who was endorsed by Jean's former bandmate, Pras Michel, and is also gaining support among the political establishment, could spark continued interest among young Haitians.

In many ways, Mr. Martelly is a more promising candidate than Jean, says Professor Gamarra. He lives in Haiti, speaks fluent Creole, and is more adept at articulating his platform than Jean, he says. "I wouldn’t be surprised if Sweet Micky places well. It may mean he is given some significant presence in government," he says.

Jean, at this point, appears to be holding his own powerful endorsement close to his chest.

"At this point, he is, just like everybody else, trying to find out the positions of candidates," says his brother, Sam Jean. "Wyclef and Micky are friends and, like I said, I think Wyclef is looking forward to talking with all political candidates and seeing where they stand on issues."

Following the Jan. 12 Haiti earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2 million more, Jean’s nonprofit group, Yéle Haiti, raised an estimated $9 million for the relief efforts.

Capitalizing on that, Jean launched his presidential bid in early August, but was rejected Aug. 20 because he apparently failed to meet a residency requirement. Jean, who in 2005 was appointed Haiti's ambassador-at-large, owns homes in Port-au-Prince, Miami, and New Jersey, and frequently travels on music tours.

Jean's disqualification, along with all other presidential candidates from the Haitian diaspora, led to allegations that the domestic political elite was manipulating the country's election commission (CEP) to freeze out strong challengers. Further allegations that President René Préval has attempted to interfere with the CEP to sway the election has undermined confidence in the government’s ability to hold a credible poll, The Christian Science Monitor reported last week.

Gamarra says, however, that Jean was justly disqualified and the CEP has operated with due process.

"Everybody who was disqualified has raised questions about the competency of the court, its political ties, but I would say generally, despite the alleged ties to Préval, the court has ruled well on all cases," says Gamarra. "I think you would be hard pressed to find a case where the court was absolutely prejudiced against a candidate."

Jean wrote Tuesday on Twitter, "Will never give up on Haiti. I wish all the Candidates the best of Luck."

Last Friday, he tweeted: "Me Running for president was never about winning or losing, it has always been in my D N A to make sure that my Country is never Forgotten."

IN PICTURES: Wyclef for President

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