Thousands lined up in Central African Republic's capital have started voting with hope that a new president will lead to a more stability after years of violence.

Voters are choosing a president from a list of 30 candidates to replace transitional leader Catherine Samba-Panza, who was put in place in January 2014 to lead the nation to a poll, which has been delayed several times. More than 1.8 million people are expected to vote at more than 500 polling stations.

U.N. peacekeepers, gendarmerie and police have been deployed to safeguard polls where violence threatened voters during a referendum Dec. 13 seen as a test for these national elections.

Central African Republic has been torn by violence since March 2013 when a largely Muslim alliance of rebel groups overthrew the president.