In addition to criticism from fellow celebrities, Wyclef says he faced government corruption and death threats.Phillip “Sonny” Bono, Australia’s Peter Garrett and Brazil’s Gilberto Gil are just a few musicians who successfully made the transition to official government positions. Yet, former Fugee member Wyclef Jean’s may have garnered the most media coverage, since Jean had no prior political experience. While promoting a new EP entitled If I Were President: My Haitian Experience, Jean talked with The Guardian about what fueled his decision to enter the political arena.
“After the earthquake I was like, I have to do something different for this country,” Jean explained. “I said, ‘I can't just keep singing.’ I felt that, if I ran for president, there would be too many eyes on the country for even the most corrupt to break the law. And in that aspect, I was wrong, because I got kicked out of the race before even running.”
In late August, Haiti’s electoral council deemed Wyclef ineligible to run for President, effectively ending his run. The council’s ruling was based on a statute that requires presidential candidates to spend five years as a Haitian resident before the election. Jean lived in Haiti until the age of nine, but has spent the majority of his life in America.
“The law doesn’t say you have to sit there in the country for five years,” he added. “In that case, 90% of the parliament would have to be ousted.”
In addition to receiving death threats, Jean said he was set up by departing Haitian President René Préval and the electoral council. Wyclef believes Préval had him declared ineligible by the council in order to aid Préval’s favored successor, Jude Célestin.
In hindsight, Jean said his failed bid was a success on many fronts. After a few weeks sniping back and forth at each other, Jean and actor Sean Penn reconciled, and both are continuing their aid efforts in the wake of Haiti’s massive earthquake. The election kept Haiti in the news for months, and it also served as a form of publicity for Wyclef.
“The vibe you get from Bob Marley or Fela Kuti, that’s the kind of legacy I want to leave.”