BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Central African Republic went ahead Sunday with a presidential runoff vote that many hope will solidify a tentative peace after more than two years of sectarian fighting left untold thousands dead and forced nearly 500,000 people to flee to neighboring countries.

About 2,000 U.N. peacekeepers were deployed in the capital, Bangui, while 8,000 others were trying to secure the vote in the largely anarchic provinces.

Vote counting began Sunday evening. The official results are not expected for several days.

Residents set aside painful memories of the chaos that intensified in late 2013 when Christian militia fighters known as the anti-Balaka attacked Bangui, unleashing cycles of retaliatory violence with mostly Muslim Seleka fighters.

Voters were choosing between two former prime ministers — both Christians promising to unite the country.

Front-runner Anicet Georges Dologuele received about 24 percent in the first round and also was endorsed by the third-place finisher.

However, Faustin Archange Touadera has strong grass-roots support after placing second in the December ballot.

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