Madagascar presidential election kicks off, voters turn out massively

25th Oct 2013

ANTANANARIVO, (Xinhua): Voters in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, turn out massively Friday to choose among 33 candidates a new president expected to lead them out of a political crisis of nearly five years.

A total of 7,823,305 registered voters are called to cast their ballots at 20,001 stations across the country. More than 2.7 million voters are registered in the captial.

At a voting center based at Vohitola public primary school, dozens of voters waited calmly in line to cast their ballots and all polling spots inside the center were opened on time as required by the electoral law. Malagasy and international observors were present at the center guarded by policemen at the entrance.

Rakotozanany Emmanuel, a hawkler in his 40s, told Xinhua that he has given his vote to Jean-Louis Robinson, the candidate openly supported by Marc Ravalomanana, former president ousted in 2009 by Andry Rajoelina who became president of transition.

“I was a driver working for a company owned by Ravalomanana. When Rajoelina took power, I lost my job. To make a living, I had to do small sellings along the streets,” said Emmanuel.

At the polling office set up at Atsimombohitra primary school in the district of Ampitatafika, voting started about five minutes after the official openning hour but everying went on normally without any incidents.

Voters there also expressed a similar wish for change. Ever since the quasi-military coup in 2009, the resource-rich Indian island country off Africa has been plunged into political chaos, economic stagnation and social disorder.

Most of Madagascar’s main donors have suspended budgetary and development aid. The government’s capacity to deliver basic social services has been reduced to a minimal level while 92 percent of the country’s 22 million population live below the poverty line of 2 U.S. dollars per day, according to latest statistics from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Among the 33 candidates, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, a former finance minister, and Edgard Razafindravahy, media tycoon and interim mayor of Antananarivo, also gained popularity during the campaign over the past month.

Both were widely seen as close associates of Rajeolina, with Rajaonarimampianina backed by most of the allies of the outgoing president while Razafindravahy appointed official candidate of the party founded by Rajeolina.

The polling stations will stay open till 5:00 p.m. local time and the counting of ballots is to start immediately afterwards, assited by about 800 international observers and 5000 national observers. Ten helicopters will be used to collect results from 186 polling stations located in the most remote areas.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENIT) is to announce the provisional results within 10 days after the voting. The fianl results are to be announced by the Special Electoral Court (CES).

If none of the candidates collects 50 percent of the votes in the first round and a runoff is to be held on Dec. 20, according to the electoral law

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