Haitians are awaiting preliminary results from Sunday's long-delayed presidential election, which took place after balloting in October of last year was annulled due to allegations of fraud.
Six million people were eligible to vote for one of 27 presidential candidates, as well as for some members of both houses of parliament.
Reports have suggested that businessman Jovenel Moise, chosen by the ruling PHTK, took the lead in the early voting tallies. The party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristid said its candidate, Maryse Narcisse, was ahead. In response to these comments, electoral authorities urged candidates not to make premature announcements. Narcisse is one of two women seeking the presidency.
Haitians are hoping their new national leader will end a year of uncertainty and struggles, while uniting the country and creating jobs. Many Haitians are still suffering from the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Matthew, which struck the country last month.
On Monday, the U.S. State Department called Sunday's vote "an important step toward returning Haiti to full constitutional rule and addressing the serious challenges the country faces." Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
In a statement, State Department spokesman John Kirby also noted "isolated incidents" of violence and intimidation during the vote, and urged authorities to bring those responsible to justice under Haitian law.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was quoted as saying the electoral process "is crucial to ending the current governance vacuum” in Haiti and urged all parties “to show statesmanship at this critical time for the country.”
Final results are expected in about a week. Unless one candidate wins more than half the vote, a runoff between the top two contenders is scheduled for January 29.