By Garry Pierre-Pierre
Haitians took to the polls on Sunday to cast their votes for president and parliamentarian candidates, despite pounding rain in the hurricane devastated southern part of the country.
By all accounts the vote was peaceful, although there were some reports of people unable to vote because their names were not on the ballots at their normal voting precinct.
The results will not be known until next week, according to the Provisional Electoral Council executive director Uder Antoine.
Six million Haitians were eligible to vote for one of 27 presidential candidates, as well as for members of both houses of parliament.
But early tabulations show that Jovenel Moise, of the PHTK party with a commanding lead.
The other leading candidates are: Jude Celestin of the LAPEH Party, who was runner-up in the 2015 ballot that subsequently was canceled; and Maryse Narcisse, one of two women on the ballot, who was a spokeswoman for former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He endorsed Narcisse and encouraged his supporters to take to the streets in protest if her candidacy failed.
But with so many candidates for president, no one is likely to gain an absolute majority of the vote, or reach a 25 percent plurality over the second-ranking candidate.
The top two finishers Sunday will face off January 29, with the winner to be sworn into office for a five-year term eight days later.
Whoever wins the election will face the challenge of reconstructing a country, which has been ravaged by natural disasters and crumbling infrastructure. The most recent, Hurricane Matthew, destroyed 90% of some of Haiti’s southern areas.
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 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.
These elections have been a tortured process for the troubled Caribbean nation. Haiti’s presidential election has been postponed multiple times in the last year, and the country’s interim president, Jocelerme Privert, has already outstayed his mandate to be in office.
According to the U.N., a first-round vote for president was held on Oct. 25, 2015. The U.S. spent $33 million to support the election, according to Kenneth Marten, the State Department’s special coordinator for Haiti.
“The second-round vote should have been held on Dec. 27, 2015, but it was delayed until January 2016, according to the U.N. The January election never happened… and on Feb. 7 the term of Haiti’s president at the time, Michel Martelly, ended without an elected successor in place. The then-president of Haiti’s Senate, Jocelerme Privert, took over as interim president.
These elections were rescheduled for Apr. 24. That day came and went without a vote.