Count on in Haiti’s much-delayed ballot

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But supporters of Maryse Narcisse said she was in the lead

[BBC] – 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 was choosing a new president and lawmakers.

Exit polls put Jovenel Moise in the lead
Exit polls put Jovenel Moise in the lead

The presidential election will probably go to a second round on 29 January as none of the 27 candidates is expected to gain the 50% of the votes necessary to win outright in the first round. Exit polls suggested Jovenel Moise, 47, had an early lead, although the supporters of Maryse Narcisse said their candidate was ahead.

Mr Moise enjoys the backing of former President Martelly and belongs to his Parti Haitien Tet Kale (Haitian Bald Head Party). A banana exporter, Mr Moise won the first round of presidential election held in October 2015 but following allegations of fraud, those elections were annulled.

Ms 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 which has been ravaged by natural disasters.

The most recent, Hurricane Matthew, destroyed 90% 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. Voter turnout in the areas worst hit by Matthew last month was low, according to reports.

But the president of the electoral council, Leopold Berlanger, said he was satisfied overall with how voting had progressed. In the capital, Port-au-Prince, voters queued from early in the morning to to cast their ballots.

“This is my responsibility as a citizen,” Alain Joseph, a motorcycle taxi driver in the city, told the Associated Press news agency. Some hours after voting ended, a fire broke out at a market in a suburb of the capital, Port-au-Prince. The cause of the blaze is still unknown.