PORT-AU-PRINCE – Eleven of the 18 candidates running for Haiti’s presidency called for the annulment of Sunday’s presidential and legislative elections, alleging irregularities and fraud.
The candidates, who also called for the resignation of President Rene Préval, said a number of irregularities had occurred to benefit ruling party candidate Jude Celestin.
The candidates said they had evidence of election fraud committed during the first five hours of voting.
Opposition candidate Mirlande Manigat, who was leading in the polls ahead of the election, said there had been “massive fraud” on Sunday.
Ballot boxes at several precincts were “already full” before the start of voting and poll workers violated the law by sleeping at the sites, Manigat said.
Celestin, for his part, downplayed the fraud allegations, saying that the election was taking place amid normality.
“Everything is going good, despite some problems,” Celestin told reporters after voting in a suburb of the capital.
The polls opened at 6:00 a.m. and will remain open until 4:00 p.m. in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
Some 4.7 million people are eligible to vote for a new head of state, 11 of the 30 members of the Senate and all 99 members of the Chamber of Deputies.
Haiti is dealing with the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed some 300,000 people and left more than 1 million others homeless, as well as a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 1,600 people and left over 72,000 others infected.
Thousands of people made their way through Port-au-Prince to polling places, churches and jobs at stalls selling a variety of goods in the streets.
Voters in Cite Soleil, one of the capital’s poorest neighborhoods, pounded on the doors of election precincts that were about to open.
Some polling places opened late as Haitians lined up to vote in an election that many see as a chance to set a new economic and social course for the country.
Manigat, according to the latest polls, is the frontrunner in the field of 18 contenders, drawing the support of 36 percent of likely voters.
She had warned earlier in the day that “serious fraud” in the election would lead to a “political crisis.”
Celestin is running second in the polls, drawing 20.2 percent support.
A runoff election will likely be needed on Jan. 16.