PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – An anxious public waited Friday to hear whether hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean would be allowed to run for president of Haiti, but one thing is already certain: The singer has brought sizzle to the election, attracting new attention to a country still devastated by the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Dozens of police were on guard against possible violence outside the electoral commission, which was expected to release its list of candidates who meet Haiti’s eligibility rules. The decision has already been delayed once this week because of uncertainty over candidate qualifications; Jean’s supporters suspect members of Haiti’s political elite are trying to block his campaign.

A chaotic scene of swarming journalists and television crews at the building became tense when a gunshot rang out on the street outside, but it was unclear if the shot targeted the commission. Police quickly began sweeping the building, and journalists were moved to a room upstairs.

Jean, 40, said that his candidacy was being challenged over the requirement that everyone who runs must have lived in the country for five years before the Nov. 28 election.

The Haitian-born musician, whose parents brought him to the United States as a child, has lived off and on in Haiti in recent years, like many wealthy Haitians. He says he can’t meet the residency in part because he has been a roving ambassador, appointed by President Rene Preval in 2007.

A Haitian newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, on Thursday cited an electoral commission member as saying that Jean did not make the list. Officials with the agency declined to comment on the report and a lawyer for the musician, Jean Tholbert Alexis, insisted it was wrong.

“I can confirm to you that Wyclef Jean will be on the list of candidates for president,” Alexis told journalists in the lobby of the commission, located in a former gym since its previous home was destroyed in the quake.

“I have my own sources, and based on the meeting Wyclef had with President Preval yesterday, I can tell you that he will be on the list,” Alexis assured.

Ahead of the expected ruling, Jean moved from a compound outside the capital to a hotel around the corner from the electoral commission and his family issued a statement saying he was still hoping that he would be accepted as a candidate either later Friday or over the weekend.

Jean, who gained famed as a member of the hip-hop musical group Fugees before building a solo career, has no political organization, not much of a following beyond his fans of his music and only a vague platform, casting himself as an advocate of Haiti’s struggling youth and saying he will ask reconstruction donors to help the country’s dysfunctional education system.

He also has faced persistent criticism over alleged financial mismanagement at the charity he founded, Yele Haiti.

On the other hand, he has generated global interest in a race in which almost no one outside Haiti could even name any of the candidates.

“If he hadn’t been involved, today, no one would be talking about candidates in the Haitian presidential election,” said Mark Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University in Houston.

The singer’s fame and wealth instantly made him a formidable candidate in the desperately poor Caribbean nation he left as a boy — though some Haitians question the seriousness of his run.

“I don’t think he’s a politician at all,” said Etienne St. Cyr, a pastor who helps at a camp for homeless earthquake survivors at the Petionville Country Club. “Maybe he’s not what we need right now.”


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