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Wyclef Jean's disqualification signals Haiti diaspora not welcome in politics

Wyclef Jean and all the other presidential hopefuls from the diaspora were disqualified from running in the Haiti election. Many see it as a politically motivated decision.

Haitian-born singer and presidential candidate Wyclef Jean, second left, walks surrounded by security after Haiti's Electoral Council rejected his candidacy in Port-au-Prince on Aug. 20.

Ramon Espinosa/AP

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The disqualification of Wyclef Jean and all the other candidates from the Haitian diaspora who sought to run in the country's presidential election has led to allegations that the domestic political elite is manipulating the country's election commission to freeze out strong challengers.

In all, 15 presidential hopefuls were disqualified by Haiti's election commission (CEP), which has not explained the reasons for any of the dismissals.

“It’s clear something wrong happened with the diaspora candidates," says Jean-Junior Joseph, a Hatian political blogger. He says that many of the 19 approved presidential candidates had similar problems with their applications as those identified in the case of diaspora candidates.

The allegation of favoritism has implications beyond the diaspora. The upcoming elections are expected to cost some $29 million, with most of that to be paid by the United States and other donors, leaving foreign governments holding the bag for what critics say could be an unfair poll.

While allegations that the election commission may be politically biased are not unique to the current election cycle, there are hopes that the star power of Mr. Jean can bring attention to the issue and push the international community to demand change.

The Commission of Electoral Observation, a body of foreign observers from the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community appointed to monitor the Haitian electoral process, has already met with Minister of Haitians Living Abroad Edwin Paraison. “It’s the first time that international observers have expressed favor towards the participation of the diaspora in an electoral process,” he says.

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