Rene Preval, leading in presidential elections, faces many hurdles to revive Haiti

Rene Preval appeared headed for a first-round presidential victory Friday and he will face a weighty agenda to pull Haiti from the brink of collapse if he reaches the cream-colored presidential palace.

Election workers were still tallying votes Friday, three days after a huge voter turnout almost overwhelmed poll workers. Preval, a former president and agronomist who is highly popular among the poor, had 61.5 percent of 282,327 valid votes counted so far. More than 1.75 million voters cast ballots, U.N. officials said.

A candidate running a distant third said he wanted the electoral council to investigate reports of fraud, claiming some people voted several times. International observers have widely praised Tuesday's elections as free and fair.

If Preval wins, he will have to immediately begin negotiating with opposition parties in parliament, where his Lespwa Party is expected to be weak, to select a prime minister. And he must stem gang violence that is driving out manufacturers and eliminating thousands of jobs.

"Everything in Haiti is broken and everything needs fixing," said Robert Maguire, director of the international affairs program at Trinity University in Washington. "One of the most immediate tasks is reconciliation and dialogue among Haitians."

This desperately poor Caribbean nation has been without an elected leadership and has been descending into anarchy since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in a bloody rebellion two years ago. The huge voter turnout Tuesday showed Haitians long for stability.

Preval has refrained from declaring victory, but indicated he would have an unconventional style, reports AP.


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