After months of political uncertainty and long-delayed elections, Haitian voters have selected Jovenel Moise, a banana plantation owner with little political background, as the country's next president with 55.67 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff ballot.
Moise beat 26 other candidates including opposition leader Jude Celestin, who finished far behind with only 19.52 percent of votes.
Winning such a majority in the Nov. 20 first round vote means the nation will avoid a runoff election, which had been scheduled for Jan. 29, as long as the losing candidates choose to accept the results.
Moise was also favored in the Oct. 25, 2015 first round elections and was headed for a runoff vote with opposition candidate Jude Celestin. The two frontrunners won 33 and 25 percent of the first round vote, respectively. However, those results were eventually scrapped amid opposition protests after an independent commission found massive fraud in the voting process.
At the time, the allegations erupted into violent protests and calls for a recount. A new election was not scheduled by the time President Michel Martelly's term ended in February, leading to the installation of an provisional government under interim President Jocelerme Privert, tasked with organizing fresh elections to re-do the October 2015 vote. Moise is Martelly's chosen successor.
The announcement of the results come after protests bubbled in the country last week, led mostly by followers of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's party and its candidate Maryse Narcisse. Ahead of the release of results Monday, interim President Privert had called for calm.
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"Resorting to acts of violence can only spoil the fruits of the beautiful day we had on Nov. 20," Privert said at the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, referring to the vote held earlier this month.
This election was a key step in restoring constitutional order in Haiti, long plagued by turmoil and unrest. The results came in without any major security incidents — a breath of fresh air after the election was repeatedly postponed, in some cases do to instability and risks of potential violence.
Nearly 6.2 million people were eligible to vote in the country, parts of which are still struggling to recover from the devastation of the Hurricane Matthew. The storm hit the country on Oct. 4, forcing authorities to push back the elections that were originally scheduled to take place on Oct. 9.
Of the 27 candidates who ran for president, four had claimed victory in the first round.
Leading candidates for president included Jovenel Moise, a wealthy Haitian backed by Martelly, and Jude Celestin, a candidate of the opposition League for Progress and Haitian Emancipation.
Haitian law offers candidates the opportunity to challenge the results from the presidential and legislative election in electoral courts. Final results will then be published Dec. 29, according to the calendar set out by Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council.
The invalidation of the October 2015 results prevented Martelly, a popular singer turned right-wing politician, elected in May 2011, from transferring power to a successor chosen by popular vote, as required by the constitution. The legislature chose senate chief Jocelerme Privert as interim head of state — initially with a three-month mandate — but new polls were delayed amid civil unrest and political infighting.
The first round of the presidential election was scheduled again for Oct. 9 but was delayed after Hurricane Matthew pummeled the country a few days before.
The electoral council said 12 percent of the tally sheets were set aside because of irregularities and were not included in the count.