Haiti awaited results of its first election

Haiti awaited results on Wednesday of its first election since Jean-Bertrand Aristide was deposed two years ago, after a vote troubled by poll problems but relatively free of violence.

Vote counting started shortly after polls closed on Tuesday evening. Balloting was extended for several hours at some polling stations, where Haitians voted by candlelight after a chaotic start to election day left many stations closed for hours after they were scheduled to open.

The first results were expected to trickle in on Wednesday, but officials have said the winner might not be known for days. Ballots were being carried by mule across mountainous terrain in some remote locations.

Officials said turnout was among the best for any election in the short democratic history of the poorest country in the Americas.

Thousands of voters had marched out of Port-au-Prince slums, many to cast ballots for ex-president Rene Preval, a former Aristide ally favoured to retake the presidency.

A US official said Washington was prepared to work with whoever wins but the result could prove a disappointment for US policymakers who pressured Aristide to leave Haiti in 2004 only to find his one-time protege the favourite to regain the National Palace.

Preval, one of 33 candidates, must capture more than 50 percent of votes cast to avoid a runoff on March 19.

Despite the problems - some voters walked kilometres to voting centres only to be turned away because they could not find their names on registration lists - Haitian election authorities and some international officials called the vote a success.

"Finally the elections took place and they are good elections of which all Haitians can be proud," Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary-general of the Organisation of American States, said. The vote was originally set for November.
A UN spokesperson said a police officer shot and killed a citizen near a polling centre in Gros-Morne and then was slain by a mob, reports Reuters.


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