Latin America & Caribbean

Haitians elect president in delayed second round

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Media captionThe BBC's Andy Gallacher in Port au Prince: "It is very busy and people are happy to be finally casting their ballot"

Haiti's delayed second-round presidential election has been largely peaceful despite isolated incidents that saw two people killed.

UN observers and Haitian election officials said turnout appeared to be larger than the chaotic first round, which was marred by violence and fraud.

Voters had a choice between pop star Michel Martelly, and academic and former first lady Mirlande Manigat.

Counting has begun but final results are not expected until mid-April.

Haitian police chief Mario Andresol said two people were shot dead in clashes between rival political factions in different rural areas.

The AFP news agency said the deaths were in the departments of Nord-Ouest and Artibonite.

Despite the two deaths, there was little violence compared to the first round of the election, in November last year.

The head of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), Gaillot Dorsinvil, said reports of irregularities at some polling stations would have "no impact on the electoral process as a whole".

Mr Dorsinvil hailed what he described as a large turnout.

"In a democratic way the Haitian people fulfilled their obligation by voting massively and made their choice."

The head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, Minustah, also said the event was largely peaceful, with few problems.

"I've seen a lot of differences compared to November 28," said Minustah head Edmond Mulet. "Participation is greater."

After delays at some polling stations caused by missing voting materials, the CEP extended voting by one hour to 1700 (2200 GMT).

Some had feared that the return of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from seven years in exile in South Africa would destabilise the vote.

After arriving in Haiti on Friday, he criticised the exclusion of his party, Fanmi Lavalas, from the elections, which are also for the country's legislature.

Mammoth challenge

The two candidates for the presidency are markedly different: Mirlande Manigat is a 70-year-old academic and wife of a former president, while Michel Martelly, 50, is a singer and entertainer known to his fans as "Sweet Micky".

Image caption Mr Aristide received a tumultuous welcome from his supporters

They emerged after recounts and challenges as the top two from November's chaotic first round, which was marred by violence and fraud.

Whoever wins will face a mammoth challenge.

Haiti is struggling to rebuild after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, with some 800,000 people still living in camps.

The country has also been suffering a cholera epidemic that is likely to flare up again with the start of the rainy season in a few weeks.

International donors are looking for the next president to help restore some stability and be a partner they can work with.

One key factor will be how many of the 4.7 million eligible voters cast their ballots. Only 23% voted in the first round, adding to the accusations of fraud.

Under Haiti's election law, the Provisional Electoral Council is due to announce preliminary results on 31 March, with the final results confirmed on 16 April.

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