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general election

Haiti is voting in general elections that have been repeatedly delayed since 2011.

Thousands of police have been deployed as voters are choosing two-thirds of the senate and the chamber of deputies. A presidential poll is set for October.

President Michel Martelly, who is barred from running again by the constitution, has ruled by decree.

The opposition has accused Michel Martelly of abusing his powers.

Polling stations across Haiti are due to open at 06:00 local time and will close at 16:00.Haiti elections 2015

Nearly six million eligible voters are choosing 119 deputies and 20 senators from more than 1,800 candidates registered from different political parties.

The run-off round will be held on October 25 – the same day as the presidential election.

Several people have been killed since campaigning for Sunday’s poll opened in July.

Haiti’s police are being helped by UN police and peacekeepers to ensure safety during the voting.

Haiti’s parliament was dissolved in January over its failure to hold elections, leaving Haiti without a functioning government.

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and is still struggling with the legacy of the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Malaysia is voting in what is widely expected to be the most closely contested general election in the country’s history.

PM Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition is up against Pakatan Rakyat, a three-party alliance headed by Anwar Ibrahim.

Malaysian PM Najib Razak's Barisan Nasional coalition is up against Pakatan Rakyat, a three-party alliance headed by Anwar Ibrahim

Malaysian PM Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional coalition is up against Pakatan Rakyat, a three-party alliance headed by Anwar Ibrahim

Voters are faced with returning the ruling party, in power for 56 years, or choosing an untested opposition.

Ahead of the polls, allegations of various forms of fraud emerged.

At polling station in the capital Kuala Lumpur queues had formed well before voting began.

Analysts say that for the first time since Malaysia’s independence in 1957, there is a real possibility that the opposition may be able to unseat the ruling party. Opinion polls suggest support for the two sides is evenly matched.

The possibility of an end to more than half a century of one-party rule has made this the hardest-fought election anyone can remember.

The hunger for change, especially among younger Malaysians, has given the opposition real momentum during the campaign.

But the ruling party has significant advantages in the cash it has spent on crowd-pleasing hand-outs, and in the way Malaysia’s parliamentary system over-represents rural areas, where the government’s support is strongest.

Nearly eight million people cast ballots in the first four hours of voting, comprising almost 60% of the 13.3 million registered voters, the election commission said.

Barisan Nasional, while credited with bringing economic development and political stability, has also been tainted by allegations of corruption.

But it remains to be seen whether Anwar Ibrahim’s coalition, comprising parties of different ethnicities and religions, can persuade voters to choose an alternative government.

Najib Razak, 59, said he was confident that Malaysians would retain his coalition and even return the two-thirds parliamentary majority Barisan Nasional lost in the 2008 polls.

During the last four years, Najib Razak said during a campaign rally on Thursday, the coalition had proved it could “protect and benefit all Malaysians”.

“The task of transformation is not over yet,” he told supporters in his home state of Pahang on Saturday.

Mohamed Rafiq Idris, a car business owner waiting to vote in the central state of Selangor, told the Associated Press news agency the ruling coalition had made “some mistakes” but he believed it would do its best to take care of the people’s welfare.

But first-time voter Bernie Lim, a banker, said: “I grew up recognizing that my parents voted for the present coalition at almost every general election. This time, they voted for the opposition. People do change.”

Anwar Ibrahim, 65, has said people’s clamor for change means that Pakatan Rakyat will emerge victorious.

“People have enough of this semi-authoritarian rule, of complete [government] control of the media, of strong arrogance, of power and endemic corruption,” he told AP in an interview.

He advised supporters “to remain calm, not to be provoked, not to take the law into their own hands, support the process”.

“Unless there’s a major massive fraud tomorrow – that is our nightmare – we will win,” he told AFP news agency.

Allegations of election fraud surfaced before the election. Some of those who voted in advance complained that indelible ink – supposed to last for days – easily washed off.

The opposition has also accused the government of funding flights for supporters to key states, which the government denies.

Independent pollster Merdeka Center has received unconfirmed reports of foreign nationals being given IDs and allowed to vote.

The international organization Human Rights Watch said there had been well-planned attacks against the country’s independent media ahead of the polls.

It said on Thursday that readers were unable to access several online news sites providing coverage of opposition candidates.

Officially, just 18 foreign electoral observers are in Malaysia. They are joined by 1,200 local observers from 17 non-governmental organizations.

The electoral commission said on Saturday that the foreign observers comprised six each from Indonesia and Thailand, and two each from Burma, Cambodia and the ASEAN secretariat.

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Early exit polls from Italy’s general election show a lead for the centre-left bloc led by Pier Luigi Bersani.

The polls suggest Pier Luigi Bersani’s alliance has taken around 34% of the vote for parliament’s lower house, ahead of Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right group with 29%, Sky Italia reports.

Beppe Grillo’s protest movement is projected to take nearly 20% of votes.

The two-day vote is seen as crucial for efforts to tackle Italy’s economic problems, as well as for the eurozone.

The election was called two months ahead of schedule, after Silvio Berlusconi’s party withdrew its support for Mario Monti’s technocratic government.

The first results based on partial vote counts are due in the next few hours.

If the exit polls are confirmed, they would echo the opinion polls prior to the election which made Pier Luigi Bersani’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD) a consistent frontrunner at nearly 35%.

Pier Luigi Bersani, a former Communist, has pledged to continue with the tough reforms of Mario Monti’s technocratic government, but suggests current European policy needs to do more to promote growth and jobs.

Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) centre-right alliance had narrowed the PD lead in the final weeks of campaigning – and may yet prevent Pier Luigi Bersani from winning an overall majority in the Senate, which is being fought on a region-by-region basis.

The fiercely anti-establishment Five Star movement of former comedian Beppe Grillo drew wide and growing support during the campaign, and threatened to be the major upset for the election.

Early exit polls from Italy's general election show a lead for the centre-left bloc led by Pier Luigi Bersani

Early exit polls from Italy’s general election show a lead for the centre-left bloc led by Pier Luigi Bersani

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The ruling coalition of Prime Minister Victor Ponta is projected to win Romania’s general election.

Exit polls gave his Social Liberal Union (USL) about 57% of the vote, as compared with just 19% for President Traian Basescu’s Right Romania Alliance (ARD).

Victor Ponta said: “This is a clear victory with an absolute majority.”

But he will have to share power with Traian Basescu, whose term runs until 2014.

Official results are not expected until Monday.

Victor Ponta and Traian Basescu have been locked in a power struggle since Ponta came to power in April following the collapse of the previous centre-right government.

The two men have argued over control of state television and the Romanian Cultural Institute and attempts to draw up a new electoral law.

Political decision-making has at times been paralyzed.

The ruling coalition of Prime Minister Victor Ponta is projected to win Romania's general election

The ruling coalition of Prime Minister Victor Ponta is projected to win Romania’s general election

In July, Victor Ponta suspended Traian Basescu and tried to impeach him. But a referendum failed to meet the required turnout.

Traian Basescu hinted before the election that he might refuse to re-appoint Victor Ponta as prime minister. He has described him as a “mythomaniac”.

Romania is the second poorest member of the European Union, which it joined in 2007.

The country and neighbor Bulgaria, are under special EU monitoring because of concerns about judicial independence, corruption and political influence in state institutions.

Romania is trying to negotiate a new loan from the IMF to replace the existing one which expires early next year.

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