Both candidates claim victory after second round voting
Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana – who have each held the top job in the impoverished country before, declared themselves winners in the run-off which analysts warned was likely to draw claims of fraud.
“Change is coming tomorrow, and today you can say that ‘Papa’ is elected,” Ravalomanana told supporters on Wednesday night at his headquarters, using his nickname. “Whatever happens, only one thing counts, we will win.”
However, his rival Rajoelina said: “I am sure I’m going to win but we’ll wait for the official results.”
The contenders, who came a close first and second in November’s first-round election, were both banned from running in the 2013 ballot as part of an agreement to end recurring crises that have rocked Madagascar since independence from France in 1960.
In the first round, Rajoelina won 39% compared with 35% for Ravalomanana. Both camps alleged they were victims of fraud and cheating.
Waiting for results
The polls closed on Wednesday evening. The election count could be tense with the first significant results due only by next week.
The EU observer mission, which said turnout was around 50%, called for candidates and their supporters to wait patiently for the official results.
“It is not by mobilising in the street that they will win, so I ask them resolutely that they refrain from any gesture that could taint the smooth running of the election,” mission chief Cristian Preda said Wednesday.
Madagascar’s electoral body said results from 5 percent of all polling stations showed Rajoelina, whose candidate number on the voting list was 13, leading with 57 percent.
Tight second round
The Malagasy will head to the polls for the second time in two months, to decide the winner of presidential election run-off, on Wednesday.
The vote pits two former presidents, Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina, whose rivalry has dominated politics on the Indian Ocean island for years.
Campaigning for Wednesday’s election has been personal, with Rajoelina dismissing his rival as an old man who should “retire and go milking his cows.”
Ravalomanana has cast his rival as a “destroyer” and denounced his “provocations”.
While experts are worried that a close result could revive instability, if rejected by the loser, the two candidates have worked overtime to win the support of voters.
“The stakes are enormous, and both men have invested heavily, including financially, in this election,” said analyst Marcus Schneider of the Bonn-based Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
“If the results are tight, the loser could challenge the results and plunge the country back into crisis.”
Promises and handouts for votes
About 45 percent of the 10 million registered voters abstained from the first round, and the two surviving contenders have criss-crossed the country via helicopter as they pull out all the stops to secure votes on Wednesday.
Promises and handouts have been distributed liberally to voters who are among the poorest in Africa.
In the south of the country, hit by perennial food shortages, Rajoelina’s campaign activists openly distributed cheap rice and oil.
“It’s not for propaganda, it’s just to help the population,” said Serge Serge, the owner of a restaurant in Fort Dauphin that hosted the event.
“This is the realisation, ahead of time, of the promises of President Rajoelina.”
“It’s very good to do this, the prices are too expensive in the market,” said Pauline Lalao, 42, one mother jostling in line, confirming she would vote for Rajoelina as “he understands our problems.”
Ravalomanana has not been shy with promises either.
In Antananarivo on Saturday, he unveiled kit that he said he would give to all schoolchildren if he wins.
“Here are the backpacks for the children,” he told thousands of supporters. “If they all have the same uniforms, they will be able to study well… I would love your children as if they were mine”.
For one supporter of “Daddy” — Ravalomanana’s nickname — the choice is clear.
“He is the only one able to develop Madagascar,” said Laza Rabaromanana, 34.
“When he was president, he was the only one who got all the children into school… he really knows how to do everything.”
Second round campaigns start
Campaigns for the second round of voting in Madagscar’s presidential poll kicked off on Tuesday.
Presidential hopeful, Marc Ravalomanana, who came second in the first round, believes he has all iot takes to close the gap and become the country’s next president.
“The difference between me and the first placed candidate was just 3 or 5 percent,” Ravalomanana told AFP at his palatial home on Monday in the capital Antananarivo.
“We can catch up and overtake him.”
Andry Rajoelina got 39.23 percent of votes and Ravalomanana 35.35 percent in last month’s poll, according to final results, setting up the pair for a close contest in the December 19 run-off to lead the Indian Ocean island nation.
Ravalomanana has a tense relationship with Rajoelina, who succeeded him with the backing of the army in a 2009 uprising that generated deep political divisions and damaged investment.
Ravalomanana is counting on mobilising voters who abstained in the first round, 46 percent of the nearly 10 million elegible voters, to close the gap with Rajoelina.
Both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina appealed to the Malagasy to come out and vote, after the High Constitutional Court confirmed the second round.
Will the losers back the frontrunners?
Ravalomanana is also hoping to secure the backing of the 34 presidential hopefuls who were knocked out in the first round.
“I’ve already had (those) candidates come here, yesterday and the day before,” he said.
Former president Rajaonarimampianina, who came third in the first round with 8.82% has ruled out picking sides in the closely-fought contest.
“He didn’t keep his promise, he had said he would back me if I came out on top and vice versa,” complained Ravalomanana.
“(But) his supporters have already come out in support of me and that’s enough.”
November 28: Court confirms second round
Madagascar’s High Constitutional Court has confirmed that former presidents Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina, will contest the second round of the presidential election.
Neither candidate secured 50 percent of votes cast, required to secure an outright victory.
The country’s top court said on Wednesday, Ravalomanana got 35.35 percent of the vote in the November first round, while Rajoelina got 39.23 percent.
“The two candidates cleared to go to the second round are Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana,” Constitutional Court judge president Jean Eric Rakotoarisoa said.
Current president Hery Rajaonarimampianina got just 8.82 percent, the court said, and will not take part in the second round, due on Dec. 19. The court rejected his request to have the election cancelled.
Madagascar is hoping for the second peaceful election since upheaval in 2009 when Ravalomanana was forced out of office by protests led by Rajoelina in what the African Union and other international organisations said was a coup.
The court said total voter turnout was 53.95 percent of the registered voters.
Ravalomanana withdraws fraud complaints
Madagascar’s former president Marc Ravalomanana, who won the first round of the November 7 presidential election, has withdrawn his legal complaints over alleged irregularities, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Neither Ravalomanana nor his arch-rival Andry Rajoelina, won the 50 percent of votes required for a first-round victory in the November 7 ballot. A run-off vote is scheduled for December 19.
“For the peace and sovereignty of Madagascar, the TIM (Ravalomanana’s party) have decided to withdraw all their complaints,” Hasina Andrianadisaona, Ravalomanana’s lawyer, told reporters.
Rajoelina who took 39.19% of the first-round vote against Ravalomanana’s 35.29%, also lodged complaints with the courts and accused election officials of “manipulation”.
The election commission issued a statement in response to Rajoelina’s allegations insisting that it had “ensured the transparency of the electoral system at all times”.
Election result to be challenged
Madagascar’s presidential election result is likely to face stiff legal challenges, following accusations of electoral fraud and corruption against the electoral body.
AFP says appeals have already been lodged with the country’s High Constitutional Court.
Madagascar’s electoral commission announced results on Saturday, confirming an expected presidential election run-off after neither of the candidate obtained the 50% of votes needed to win outrightly.
According to the Independent electoral commission, former presidents Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana, will contest the second round having secured 39.19% and 35.29% respectively.
The outgoing president Hery Rajaonarimampianina, placed third in the polls with only 8.84% of the vote.
The commission said turnout was 54. 3%.
Police urges calm ahead of results
With 96 percent of all polling stations counted, Madagascan police on Friday called for calm, as results showed two former presidents leading the close presidential race; Andry Rajoelina was on 39.38 percent and Marc Ravalomanana on 34.19 percent.
Outgoing president Hery Rajaonarimampianina came in third place with about nine percent.
“The electoral process is at a delicate moment, sensitive to any tensions and rivalries, so all stakeholders are urged to protect the best interests of the nation and to guarantee order,” the police said in a statement.
The three leading candidates have all raised allegations of fraud and malpractice by election authorities.
Thirty-six candidates participated in the first-round election.
The second-round duel between the two top vote winners — required if no candidate scores above 50 percent in the first round — is to take place on December 19.
Partial results point to election run-off
With 80 percent of the ballots counted from last week’s vote, two former presidents are in the lead, with Andry Rajoelina on 39.63 percent, while Marc Ravalomanana was on 35.42 percent, pointing towards a close race for the presidency in the head-to-head second round.
Outgoing president Hery Rajaonarimampianina was in third place with eight percent.
“Given the results of the CENI (Independent National Electoral Commission), the second round is now inevitable,” Madagascan analyst Mahery Lanto Manandafy told AFP.
Under Madagascar’s electoral regulations, the two frontrunners go through to a run-off, scheduled for December 19 — if neither manages to secure more than 50 percent in the first round.
Both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina were banned from contesting the last election in 2013 under international pressure to avoid a repeat of political violence that engulfed the island in 2009.
Ravalomanana, 68, and Rajoelina, 44, are bitter rivals and this is the first time they have faced each other at the polls.
Ravalomanana ruled from 2002 to 2009 until he was ousted in a military-backed coup that installed Rajoelina who was in power until 2014.
Rajaonarimampianina succeeded him, ruling until earlier this year.
EU approval, incumbent president claims fraud
While Madagascar’s president Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who is running for a second term, has complained about some electoral irregularities, the EU observer chief said last Friday that there were not enough irregularities to affect the outcome of Wednesday’s election.
Rajaonarimampianina on Thursday complained against the use of an invalid voter register, delays in the opening of the polls in some places, intimidation and ballot-stuffing.
But the EU’s chief observer Cristian Preda said any irregularities observed so far were not sufficient to change the outcome or call the vote into question.
“We are in a good atmosphere. The disputes are part of the democratic game… it’s normal, it’s human. Disputes must be handled by the law enforcement bodies,” Preda said.
He however noted that the lack of a cap on campaign spending by the candidates had put some at a disadvantage, without providing any names.
The result of the first round of voting in one of the world’s poorest countries could hinge in part on which of the frontrunners, all wealthy men, spent the most money.
“In 2013, the European Union recommended capping candidate expenses and in future reports, there will still be this recommendation,” Preda said.
Leading candidates optimistic
As election officials count votes, following Wednesday’s presidential poll, the frontrunners have expressed optimist about their chances of winning.
Incumbent president Hery Rajaonarimampianina, is facing a stiff challenge from two former presidents, Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina.
“I am optimistic and positive, I do not think there will be a second round,” dairy tycoon Marc Ravalomanana said at his political headquarters, where dozens of supporters gathered.
For his part, former nightclub promoter Andry Rajoelina spoke to hundreds of supporters gathered at the studio of his TV chain Viva, saying he was satisfied the early results “express the desire for change.”
Rajaonarimampianina called it “a big day… a victory for democracy” after casting his ballot.
While election observers are hoping for a peaceful election, having detected no anomalies in the polls, some are worried about the possibility of a second round.
“The big risk of this election is that it will return us to an era of crisis,” said Sahondra Rabenarivo, an analyst at the Malagasy Observatory on Public Life.
“It’s very important that the results are credible and that the third-placed candidate accepts them.”
If the poll needs to go to a second round, it will involve only the two top candidates and take place on Dec. 19.
Polls close, issues during voting
Polling stations closed in Madagscar at 5pm local time (14:00GMT), having opened as early as 6am (3:00GMT).
While the head of the European Union’s observer mission, Cristian Preda, reported that there were no issued during the voting, some voters in the capital reportedly could not find their names on the voters’ register.
#Madagascar ‘s electoral commission, CENI says there’s been a 40% turnout in the presidential election.Also problems with voters roll- we spoke to many people who couldn’t find their name on the list so did not vote. They say they had registered. In some instances whole families
With close to 10 million registered voters, the electoral body, CENI reported a turnout of 40%.
Vote counting is now underway, in the presidential race that pit incumbent President Hery Rajaonarimampianina against his two main challengers are former heads of state: Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina.
The Malagasy people demonstrated enthusiasm as they started voting early on Wednesday morning in a presidential election, hoping for change of the Indian Ocean island’s fortunes in terms of job opportunities, poverty eradication and corruption.
Voter Sahondramalala Nirisoa told Reuters she had arrived early because she needed to get to work.
“I hope and I pray for a change,” she said. “That is why I came to vote.”
There are nearly 10 million registered voters in the country of 25 million people, data from the electoral commission showed.
Few analysts expect an outright winner from the 36 total who are contesting.
All three leading candidates have criss-crossed the island in a hunt for votes and each has pledged to accelerate recovery for an economy the International Monetary Fund forecasts will grow at more than 5 percent this year, its highest rate in a decade.
If the poll needs to go to a second round, it will involve only the two top candidates and take place on Dec. 19.
Since a peaceful election in 2013, investors and donor governments re-engaged following a four-year freeze that began after Rajoelina came to power.
The events of 2009 prompted an exodus of foreign investors from a country that is one of the world’s poorest despite reserves of nickel, cobalt, gold, uranium and other minerals.
The island was hit by a fresh political crisis in April sparked by a legal amendment by Rajaonarimampianina’s government that would have prevented Ravalomanana from standing for office.
Rajaonarimampianina approved a new law removing that provision the following month, allowing Ravalomanana to register as a candidate.