Hip hop artist and presidential hopeful Wyclef Jean said that as leader he would work to change Haiti’s constitution to allow dual citizenship and give many Haitians living abroad the right to vote.
The issue is central in Haiti where hundreds of thousands fled poverty and the money they send home from abroad is the earthquake-ravaged Caribbean nation’s main money earner and vital to its economic survival.
Currently, Haitians who emigrate must renounce their Haitian citizenship if they become citizens of another country, making them unable to vote or run for office in their homeland.
Jean himself left Haiti for New York City when he was nine, but never sought US citizenship.
The former Fugees frontman said his presidency would be a “bridge” between the Haitians abroad and those living in the country.
“The future is dual citizenship,” he said, adding that many countries, including the neighbouring Dominican Republic, allow citizens to hold two passports.
Haitians abroad “should have the right to vote in their country,” especially since they send billions in remittances to family members.
“If they are the ones who keep this country alive, they should have some kind of say on what kind of government structure there is,” the 40-year-old singer said.
Jean arrived in Haiti after giving a concert in Belgium. He said it might be one of his last performances for five years if elected.
“Celebrity has taught me that politics is politricks,” he said. “The fact that I’m coming with this with fresh eyes but not naive ears, I think that’s a good start.”
He hopes to turn around the economic fortunes of the nation.
“To save the country, it’s not just going to take aid,” he said. “It’s going to take investment. That’s the message.”
Jean himself has a big hurdle to clear before he actually campaigns for office.
An eight-member provisional electoral council is scheduled to decide on Tuesday whether Jean will even be listed on the November 28 presidential ballot.
According to the country’s constitution, Haitian presidents must have lived in the country at least five consecutive years before election day.