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Still reeling from hurricane, Haiti counts votes in presidential election

Haiti's election officials say that they may have the preliminary results of its presidential election as early as next Monday.

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    Electoral workers are seen during the counting at a polling station as Haiti holds a long-delayed presidential election after a devastating hurricane and more than a year of political instability, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Sunday
    Jeanty Junior Augustin/Reuters
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The long vote-counting process for Haiti's presidential election finally commenced late Sunday, more than a year after the vote was first held. 

The process, which involves counting paper ballots in the presence of political party monitors, is expected to take eight days or more, officials said. While early reports suggested that Jovenel Moise, who is backed by Haiti's last president, Michel Martelly, was ahead in early voting tallies, the party of another former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, said it also expected its nominee, Maryse Narcisse, to win. 

The initial vote, in October 2015, was annulled over complaints of fraud in the first round, with the vote rescheduled for last month. But that vote was postponed because of the arrival of hurricane Matthew, which killed as many as 1,000 people and left 1.4 million needing aid.

Since President Martelly left office in February, the government has been in the hands of a caretaker government. Now, after more than a year of political limbo, voters say they hope the next president will boost the economy and fix the damage done by the hurricane. 

"We are in a political crisis. We need an elected government to get out of this situation," said 19-year-old Launes Delmazin, a first-time voter, to Reuters. 

While many came out to vote in the capital of Port-au-Prince, voter turnout was low in much of southwestern Haiti, which was hit by hurricane Matthew last month and experienced rainfall on Sunday. 

"We know that people in the south part of the country are very much concerned about their survival, about food, about shelter," Rosny Desroches, of the Haitian watchdog group Citizen Observatory for Institutionalizing Democracy, told the Associated Press. "For some people elections might appear as a kind of secondary concern." 

Reports of voter intimidation and disruptions, including an attempt to burn a voting center in the northern town of Port Margot, contributed to concerns about whether the electoral process would work this time around. 

"The results of the elections must be a reflection of the verdict of the ballot boxes and not the expression of fraud (ballot boxes and others) or violent movements through the streets," said the Citizen Observatory for Institutionalizing Democracy in a statement prior to the election, as reported by the Miami Herald. 

At the end of election day, officials expressed satisfaction, despite a number of reports of voting fraud. 

"It was a successful day," Leopold Berlanger, the president of the nine-member Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), told the Herald. "A day that unfolded in calm, serenity ... and, in general, this day unfolded without violence."

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters. 

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