Ex-president Rajoelina closes in on Madagascar election win: partial results

2018-12-22 12:17
Presidential candidate Andry Rajoelina casts his ballot during the presidential election in Antananarivo, Madagascar. (AFP)

Presidential candidate Andry Rajoelina casts his ballot during the presidential election in Antananarivo, Madagascar. (AFP)

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Former Madagasca president Andry Rajoelina was set to return to power as partial election results on Saturday gave him a clear lead over his rival Marc Ravalomanana with more than half the votes counted.

With over three million ballots counted out of about five million cast, Rajoelina had won 55.1% against 44.8% for Ravalomanana after Wednesday's head-to-head election, according to the electoral commission.

Complete results are expected next week, before a period in which they can be legally challenged.

The two-round election was beset by allegations of fraud from both sides and the result may be contested - raising the risk of a new political crisis in the Indian Ocean island which has a history of coups and unrest.

But EU election observers said Friday they had not seen evidence of malpractice.

"The Madagascans voted in a peaceful atmosphere in a transparent and well-organised poll," mission head Cristian Preda told reporters.

"Even before the first round, the candidates talked about massive fraud. We did not see it in the field... I hope that calm will come once the results are very clear."

In the same vein, the African Union (AU) congratulated the "two candidates, the entire political class and the Madagascan people who, despite the differences... have shown restraint."

Bitter rivals

Rajoelina and Ravalomanana, both former presidents and long-time rivals, have been locked in a fiercely personal duel for power after they came a close first and second in the preliminary election in November.

"I have noticed massive fraud. There are electoral cards that are fake," Ravalomanana told AFP on Thursday at his campaign headquarters in the capital Antananarivo.

Sensing victory, Rajoelina's campaign staff have nonetheless responded with their own accusations, saying they had detected "fraud" and "manipulation".

The two candidates were both banned from running in the 2013 election as part of an agreement to end recurring crises that have rocked Madagascar since independence from France in 1960.

Ravalomanana, 69, was first elected president in 2002 but was forced to resign seven years later by violent demonstrations supported by Rajoelina, the then mayor of the capital Antananarivo.

Rajoelina, now 44, was installed by the army and ruled until 2014. He is a former party planner and successful entrepreneur with slick communication skills.

Ravalomanana is a former milkman from a peasant family who went on to build a business empire.

Madagascar is well known for its vanilla and precious redwood, yet is one of the world's poorest nations, according to World Bank data, with 76% of people living in extreme poverty.

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