Wyclef Jean is considering running for president against his politician uncle, although some observers are skeptical if the earthquake-ravaged country is even capable of holding elections this year.
“Wyclef has just returned to the US from Haiti and will meet with key advisers on several continents, as well as spend time with us, before he makes a final decision,” according to a statement Friday morning from The Jean Family.
“At this time, he remains committed to helping people in his homeland of Haiti and has not made a final decision on whether to seek elected office. He recognizes pending deadlines and is committed to a public announcement next week.”
Wyclef's uncle, who has served as Haiti's ambassador to the US since 2005, announced his presidential bid earlier this week in an interview with the Monitor. Ambassador Raymond Joseph told the Monitor today that he has also sent his resignation letter to Haiti President René Préval, effective Aug. 1.
"Some people feel I would not leave my posh ambassador’s place here [in Washington] to go to a pace that is very iffy, very hard," he said today in a telephone interview. "I want them to know that I am serious."
Mr. Joseph is the brother of Wyclef's mother. "His mother had called me the other day to say, ‘I’m sick about what he’s doing,’ " he says. He adds that, if he runs against his nephew, it will be a question to voters of "popularity verses experience."
'Wyclef will be perceived as savior'
The Grammy-award winning musician's wild popularity is not in question, says Henry Carey, a political science professor at Georgia State University. "He will be perceived as the next savior. ... All he really has to do is have a few rock concerts."
"Raymond Joseph is nothing compared to him," he adds. "Raymond Joseph is really no big deal in Haiti."
Wyclef has reportedly taken legal steps to run for president, including filing all necessary papers. Appearing at the Port-au-Prince international airport on Thursday, he told Reuters that he was in Haiti to meet with lawyers and have his fingerprints taken by the judicial police as part of the legal process of preparing to run for president.
"There are a lot of rumors that I am running for president. I have not declared that," he told the news agency. "If we decide to move forward, I am pretty sure that we have all our paperwork straight."
Wyclef may need a lot of lawyers if he plans to be president, as his legitimacy as a candidate could come down to a court decision. Of six constitutional requirements to run for president, one is that the candidate have lived in Haiti for the five preceding years.
Is an election even possible?
But Professor Henry Carey, who has monitored several Haiti elections for international observers, argues that it's highly unlikely that Haiti will be able to host elections in November, the date set by current President René Préval, who must retire after this term.
"Every single election in Haiti has been delayed for any number of reasons," he says.
The Jan. 12 earthquake destroyed or damaged 188,383 homes, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and among them were many places used for polling stations. It remains unclear where people will vote in Port-au-Prince. Moreover, the Provisional Electoral Commission (CEP) must determine in what districts that the 2 million displaced Haitians are allowed to vote.
"Unless the CEP is completely different from the past CEP," he says, "the commissioners will be too busy squabbling."