Madagascar: Voters Seek To End Years Of Political Instability

A runoff presidential election between former leaders Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana held on December 19, 2018.

The people of Madagascar on December 19, 2018 returned to the polls to choose the next Head of State after the first round vote on November 7, 2018 contested by 36 candidates failed to produce an outright winner. Andry Rajoelina, 44, President from 2009 to 2014, received 39 per cent of last month’s vote, while Marc Ravalomanana, 69, President from 2002 to 2009, got 35 per cent. Outgoing President Hery Rajaonarimampianina came a distant third and was thus eliminated from the race.

“I appeal to all Malagasy people to vote massively to express their choice so that they can choose who will lead this country,” he said. “I am a democrat and I will accept the verdict of the ballot box,” Rajoelina told journalists told journalists, saying he was he was confident of the process. “I hope that the next President will bring development to the country, security and assist more children to go to school,” Haja Hasina, a student said.

A cabinet minister, General Beni Xavier Rasolofonirina, said almost 20,000 troops were deployed throughout the country, with 900 in the capital, Antananarivo, to ensure the security of the election. “I call on Malagasy to defend their choice, not to let the two candidates and their supporters do the job, come and vote and then assist and monitor the counting of votes,” Gen. Rasolofonirina added.

Meanwhile, observers are worried that a close result could revive instability, especially if rejected by the loser. “The stakes are enormous, and both men have invested heavily, including financially, in this election,” said Marcus Schneider, an analyst from the Bonn-based Friedrich Ebert Foundation. “If the results are tight, the loser could challenge the results and plunge the country back into crisis,” Schneider warned.

Some 10 million voters were registered to vote out of a population of 25 million. Campaigning in the election was largely peaceful. Antananarivo was vibrant in the final days before the vote with the orange T-shirts of Rajoelina and the white and green ones of Ravalomanana worn by hundreds of supporters. Provisional results are expected within a week.

A former French colony, Madagascar is ranked by the World Bank as one of the world’s poorest nations, although rich in ecological diversity. More than two-thirds of the island’s population live in extreme poverty, while corruption is reportedly widespread.

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