Almost three dozen candidates have filed to run in Haiti’s critical post-quake presidential elections slated for this fall. As registration closed on Saturday, the filing last week of hip-hop star and “diaspora candidate” Wyclef Jean had thrust Haiti back into the international limelight.
Besides Jean, the crowded field of contenders seeking to rebuild this quake-battered nation include former prime ministers, a local celebrity musician, businessmen, two mayors and a handful of political unknowns. “I would say if these are indeed the candidates, you could look to Wyclef Jean to appeal to the youth,” said James Morrell, a longtime Haiti observer and executive director of the Haiti Democracy Project in Washington, D.C.
Last-minute political intrigue matched the ruckus outside Haiti’s election headquarters Saturday as candidate registration for the post-earthquake presidential race rollicked to a close. The biggest shake-up came inside President Rene Preval’s Unity party, which revealed it is not backing former Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis after all. Instead it threw its support behind Jude Celestin, head of the government’s primary construction firm.
Alexis showed up at the quake-damaged election headquarters anyway and registered with a different party — the Mobilization for Haitian Progress, run by a former presidential hopeful from Miami with family ties to former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.
At least 58 parties are registered for the Nov. 28 first-round vote to choose a successor to Préval, who is barred from seeking re-election. Voters will also select legislators and local officials. The support of Préval’s party is expected to be a factor in a contentious presidential race. For one, the eight members of the provisional electoral council who will determine which candidates are qualified for the ballot were all approved for their positions by Préval. Candidates must meet seven constitutional requirements: Be a native of Haiti, be at least 35 years old, have never renounced their citizenship, have never been sentenced for a crime, own property and a “habitual residence” in Haiti, not currently be handling public funds and have resided in the country for at least five consecutive years before election day.
Celestin, the Unity Party’s candidate, heads the government-run Centre National des Equipments, whose dump trucks and front-loaders hauled away tens of thousands of bodies after the Jan. 12 quake and are contracted to cart away millions of cubic feet of rubble. The road-building company can also expect a lot of business as billions in aid money flows in for reconstruction.
Whoever wins the Nov. 28 vote will inherit one of the toughest jobs in the hemisphere.
They will be in charge of overseeing Haiti’s reconstruction efforts, which include finding shelter for 1.5 million people who were made homeless after the Jan. 12 temblor, along with trying to alleviate the country’s countless woes.
The list of presidential hopefuls will become official on Aug. 17 when the nine-member provisional electoral council, or CEP, announces who’s eligible. The list of candidates — 34 total — include:
• Jean, former Fugees frontman, producer and goodwill ambassador.
• Jude Celestin, founder and executive director of the government’s road-building outfit, the National Center of Equipment, and member of President René Préval’s Unity party.
• Yvon Neptune, an architect and ex-senator who served as prime minister under former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
• Jacques Edouard Alexis, a two-time prime minister who was sacked in the aftermath of food riots in 2008.
• Leslie Voltaire, a Cornell-educated urban planner, former minister, and government liaison to the United Nations.
• Lavarice Gaudin, an Aristide ally and Miami activist and radio commentator.
• Raymond Joseph, former ambassador to the United States and Wyclef Jean’s uncle.
• Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, a compas musician and entertainer whose lyrics have poked fun at the concept of the Haitian presidency.
• Mirlande Manigat, a longtime opposition leader, professor, and former first lady.
• Charles “Charlito” Henry Baker, an apparel manufacturer who was at the helm of an opposition movement that helped topple Aristide in 2004.
• Wilson Jeudy, mayor of Delmas who organized a sister-city relationship with North Miami.
This post is based on reports by the Associated Press and the Miami Herald. They can be found at http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/08/08/1766952/hip-hop-star-wyclef-jean-and-33.html#ixzz0w4iPqYl9