PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Three days after a huge voter turnout almost overwhelmed poll workers, Rene Preval, a former president who is highly popular among the poor, saw his lead drop to 50.26 percent of the 1.1 million votes counted so far.
As the vote-counting continued yesterday, the rest of the 32 candidates were far behind, with Leslie Manigat, in second place, capturing 11 percent.
The winning candidate needs 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a March runoff. More than 1.75 million votes were cast, UN officials said. Haiti's electoral commission said there could be enough results tallied by late today to draw more solid conclusions about the outcome.
Charles Henri Baker, a candidate running a distant third, said he wants the electoral council to investigate reports of fraud, saying some people voted several times. International observers have praised Tuesday's elections as free and fair.
''We're starting to hear that people voted five times, 10 times, 20 times," Baker said. ''This is a worry to us because we don't know if it happened at one center, 10 centers . . . or all over the country."
Preval, 63, a protege of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has refrained from declaring victory until more results are in.
If he wins, he will have to open negotiations with opposition parties in parliament with little support from his Lespwa Party. The gang violence fueling job losses must be stopped, and he must assure the poor he will be effective.
''Everything in Haiti is broken and everything needs fixing," said Robert Maguire, director of the international affairs program at Trinity University in Washington. ''One of the most immediate tasks is reconciliation and dialogue among Haitians."
Preval has not announced specific plans for addressing Haiti's problems beyond pledging to improve security and create jobs.