Madagascans yesterday voted in a runoff election between two rivals who have waited years to come face-to-face in a fiercely personal battle for power.
The clash between former Madagascan presidents Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina could revive instability in the impoverished country if the result is rejected by the losing candidate or fraud allegations are widespread, analysts say.
The two contenders came a close first and second in November’s preliminary vote, far ahead of their competitors.
Ravalomanana and Rajoelina were both banned from running in the 2013 vote as part of an agreement to end recurring crises that have rocked Madagascar since independence from France in 1960.
“My choice is already made, but I keep it to myself,” 45-year-old housewife Monique Norosoa said as she voted in the capital Antananarivo.
In the first round, Rajoelina won 39 percent of the vote compared with 35 percent for Ravalomanana. Both camps alleged they were victims of fraud and cheating.
Ravalomanana, 69, was elected as president in 2002, but was forced to resign seven years later by violent demonstrations supported by Rajoelina, who was then-mayor of the capital Antananarivo. Rajoelina, 44, was installed by the army and ruled until 2014.
“There are fake ID cards and fake voter cards circulating right now... If the interior ministry does not do anything, there will be problems,” Ravalomanana said in the candidates’ TV debate ahead of polling day.
“I will work and do anything to make Madagascar a developed country,” he said, underlining his experience and character in contrast to the younger Rajoelina.
Rajoelina used the debate to strike an authoritative tone, saying he would unite the country and vowing to respect the result.
“Let us agree that it is the choice of the Madagascan people who will lead the country,” he said, adding that he would “be the president of everyone, from north to south and from east to west.”
About 45 percent of the 10 million registered voters abstained from the first round, and the two surviving contenders criss-crossed the country via helicopter as they pulled out all the stops to secure votes.
Both candidates have spent lavishly on campaigning, with promises and handouts distributed liberally to voters who are among the poorest in Africa.
With the personalities of the two contenders dominating the election, issues such as poverty, corruption and lack of basic services have been largely pushed to one side.
Some analysts say that the election fallout could damage the country’s chances of development.
“We have two egos face-to-face, who do not see themselves losing and who could go on until breaking point, especially if the results are very tight,” said Sahonda Rabenarivo, of the Observatory of Political Life in Madagascar.
Former Madagascan minister of education Paul Rabary, a fringe candidate who was eliminated in the first round, said the stakes were high.
“For Marc Ravalomanana, his network cannot survive if he does not take power. For Rajoelina, his personal history is sullied by the  coup, so he must win to rescue his honor,” Rabary said.
The country’s 25,000 polling stations were to close at 5pm.
The images of a besuited Ferdinand Marcos Jr, clad in a top hat and leaning nonchalantly on a Rolls-Royce, dating from his time in Britain in the 1970s, are as you might expect from the playboy scion of a kleptocratic dictator. Yet as the Marcos family returns to power in the Philippines after a landslide presidential victory by Marcos Jr, he is facing calls to stop misrepresenting the circumstances of his studies at the University of Oxford. The university has confirmed that he did not complete his degree in philosophy, politics and economics after enrolling in 1975. “According to our records, he did
A glimpse of a possible Picasso in the home of Imelda Marcos filmed during a visit by her son after his presidential election win has set off a flurry of speculation in the Philippines, where the family that once plundered billions is set to return to power. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the late dictator, won a landslide victory in Monday’s presidential election, an outcome that has appalled those who survived his father’s regime. Images released by the family showed Marcos Jr visiting the home of his mother, who had displayed Picasso’s Femme Couche VI (Reclining Woman VI),
HATE CRIME: Officials were investigating a detailed ‘manifesto’ posted online before the livestreamed shooting, in which the suspect outlined his reasoning and plans A heavily armed 18-year-old white man on Saturday shot 10 people dead at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store in a “racially motivated” attack that he livestreamed on camera, authorities said. The gunman, who was wearing body armor and a helmet, was arrested after the massacre, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told a news conference. Gramaglia put the toll at 10 dead and three wounded. Eleven of the victims were African Americans. The gunman shot four people in the parking lot of the Tops supermarket, three of them fatally, then went inside and continued firing, Gramaglia said. Among those killed inside the store was
CALIBRATED RESPONSE: The city-state has learned from its past experiences of dealing with COVID-19 variants to assess the situation and the risks, the transport minister said Singapore will strive to keep its borders open and stay connected to the rest of world even if a new variant of COVID-19 emerges, Singaporean Minister for Transport S. Iswaran said on Wednesday. The city-state has learned from its past experiences of dealing with COVID-19 variants, Iswaran said in an interview with Bloomberg News. When the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 hit, Singapore did not backtrack on its reopening plans, but rather decided to wait and see how things panned out, he said, adding that the response was different versus the Delta outbreak. “We’ve all learned to adapt,” Iswaran said on the sidelines