Officials in Haiti have begun counting the votes cast in Sunday’s much-delayed elections.
The process is expected to take at least a week as officials tally the paper ballots by hand.
The election was delayed for more than a year after the results of the October 2015 vote were thrown out following allegations of widespread fraud. After President Michel Martelly’s mandate expired in February, Jocelerme Privert was named interim leader.
The Caribbean nation is choosing a new president and lawmakers. The presidential election will probably go to a second round on Jan. 29 as none of the 27 candidates is expected to gain the 50 percent total necessary to win outright in the first round. Exit polls suggested Jovenel Moise, 47, had an early lead, but supporters of Maryse Narcisse said their candidate was ahead.
Moise enjoys the backing of former President Martelly and belongs to his Parti Haitien Tet Kale (Haitian Bald Head Party). The banana exporter won the first round of presidential elections held in October 2015 but following allegations of fraud, those results were annulled.
Narcisse, a doctor, has the backing of Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and is one of two women running for the top office.
Whoever wins the election will face the challenge of reconstructing a country that has been ravaged by natural disasters. The most recent, Hurricane Matthew, destroyed 90 percent of some of Haiti’s Southern areas. One voter in that region told Reuters news agency that what people there needed was “aid after the hurricane, because everything was lost.”
An appeal for donations by the UN has so far failed to raise even half the sum it set out to reach.
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