A wealthy U.S. businessman whose bid to run for president of Haiti was rejected by electoral authorities defiantly pledged Saturday to fight for a spot on the ballot of his native country's first election since the ouster of Jean-Bertrand Aristide following a violent rebellion in February 2004.
Dumarsais Simeus, the son of Haitian peasants and owner of one of the largest black-owned business in the United States, said he will do "everything possible," including filing a legal challenge if necessary, to overturn the Provisional Electoral Council's decision to strike his name from the list of presidential candidates in the Nov. 20 election.
"This election, without us being allowed to participate as a presidential candidate, will have no legitimacy whatsoever," Simeus said at a news conference at a hotel in the capital.
The electoral council late Friday issued a list of 32 approved presidential candidates _ a diverse group that includes former government officials from across the political spectrum and a leader of the rebellion that forced President Aristide, the country's first freely elected president, out of office and into exile in South Africa.
But Simeus, the 65-year-old owner of a Texas-based food services company, was rejected because he has U.S. citizenship, said Rosemond Pradel, the council's secretary-general.
The businessman, who has lived outside his native country for more than 40 years, told reporters that his citizenship should not be an issue. Garry Lisade, an attorney for Simeus, said the electoral council misinterpreted the law and did not have the right to bar him from the race because he had submitted the legally required documents before the filing deadline, and it is now too late to reject his candidacy.
Simeus, who has said he hopes to use his business skills to help the economy of the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, said he asked the council for an explanation of its decision but has not received a response. In any case, he said he had no intention of abandoning his bid for the presidency.
The council, which rejected 22 presidential candidates, also excluded Louis Gerald Gilles, a former senator and prominent moderate figure of Aristide's Lavalas Family Party. Pradel said Gilles submitted incomplete paperwork. Candidates who were rejected, along with their supporters, planned to stage a protest Monday outside the electoral council's headquarters.
They accepted the candidacies of two presumed front-runners: former President Rene Preval, a one-time close ally of Aristide; and Marc Bazin, a former prime minister who is running as a candidate of a moderate faction of the ousted leader, AP reports.
Other presidential candidates include Leslie Manigat, a former president who was forced from his post by the army in 1988 after five months in power; Guy Philippe, a leader of the rebellion that forced Aristide from power; and Charles Henry Baker, a wealthy businessman and prominent member of Haiti's business establishment.