Haitians voted for a new president Sunday as the poorest country in the Americas looks to shed chronic political instability and get back on its feet.
Turnout was reported large as voters faced a ballot featuring more than 50 presidential candidates as they selected a leader they hope might be able to lift the nation out of poverty and turbulence. Long lines were seen at some polling stations in the capital, Port-au-Prince, before voting ended.
Sunday's first round election comes nearly five years after President Michel Martelly came to power in a country struggling to recover from the effects of the 2010 earthquake that leveled much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and left more than 1 million people homeless.
In Port-au-Prince, VOA Creole reported some minor irregularities and observed some voting centers that opened later than the official 6 a.m. start time. In Borgne, in northern Haiti, election officials suspended the vote after unidentified gunmen attacked a convoy that was transporting voting materials.
Voting in Haiti, Oct. 25, 2015. (J. Belizaire/VOA)
Still, voting was generally orderly, according to VOA Creole reporters on the ground.
Haiti's President Michel Martelly voted along with his wife in a polling center in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petion-Ville. Although he did not take questions, the Haitian leader said Saturday night he encouraged people to cast their ballots and urged the candidates and political leaders to accept the election results.
Haiti's President Michel Martelly on his way to vote at a polling station in Petion-Ville, Haiti, Oct. 25, 2015. (J. Belizaire/VOA)
First round results are expected by late November and a runoff vote is scheduled for December 27.
The country also is holding municipal elections and a second round of legislative elections.
The legislative elections have added importance as Haiti's parliament dissolved in January after two missed elections left the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies without a minimum number of members to perform their duties.
Among the presidential candidates was Jude Celestin, the former head of the government construction company who is running under the LAPSE Party (Alternative League for Progress and Emancipation of Haiti.) Others included Jovenel Moise, a political newcomer, who is the candidate for Martelly's Haitian Party of Bald Heads; and former Senator Moise Jean-Charles, an outspoken critic of Martelly who represents the Children of Dessalines ticket.
VOA's Creole service contributed to this report.