Port-au-Prince, Haiti Singer Wyclef Jean officially announced his bid to be president of Haiti to a roaring crowd of supporters on Thursday, thrusting himself into a contentious race to lead an impoverished country reeling from a devastating earthquake.
At one point the hip hop artist-turned-politician bodysurfed on the hands of bandana-waving backers in Haiti’s capital and stepped onto a speaker truck to address the crowd of hundreds. Jean had submitted his candidacy papers 10 minutes before the provisional electoral office closed.
“America has Barack Obama and Haiti has Wyclef Jean,” shouted Jean, who was born in Haiti but raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. Many in the crowd wore T-shirts distributed by supporters.
Carrying his wailing 5-year-old daughter in his arms, Jean told The Associated Press: “It’s a moment in time and in history. It’s very emotional.”
The former Fugees frontman enters a highly competitive and crowded race for a difficult and dangerous job. Only one person has completed a democratically elected 5-year term in Haiti’s history — current President Rene Preval. Preval is barred from running by the constitution.
The winner of the Nov. 28 general elections inherits a destroyed capital, 1.6 million homeless people and countless groups fighting over billions of dollars in international reconstruction funds pledged after a January earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 people.
Jean originally planned to join the coalition of Pierre Eric Jean-Jacques, former Chamber of Deputies leader. But he switched at the last minute to Jean-Jacques’ brother’s party to make room for government planner Leslie Voltaire in Jean-Jaques’ coalition.
The switch is not expected to affect Jean’s chances.
If Jean’s candidacy is approved, he will face several candidates who lack his international fame but have more political clout.