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Madagascar's former finance minister declared winner in presidential election

Madagascar's electoral court has declared the country's former finance minister - Hery Rajaonarimampianina - president elect. The ruling followed a legal dispute over alleged rigging in the chaotic vote.

Madagascar's electoral court ended the legal dispute over the winner of December's runoff presidential elections on Friday, ruling that former finance minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina had fairly won the majority of votes.

Rajaonarimampianina "[is] declared official president of the Republic of Madagascar," the court announced.

Only half of the country's 8 million registered voters cast ballots in the runoff polls, which many hoped would end years of political uncertainty and restore democracy.

The results of the December 20 vote gave Rajaonarimampianina roughly 53 percent of the vote, while his opponent, Robinson Jean Louis won only 46.5 percent.

Following the runoff election, Louis took the case to the electoral court, accusing his opponent of ballot stuffing and calling the polls a "massive fraud." His party demanded a recount of the ballots.

Louis - the country's former health minister - had been favored to win in December after taking 21 percent of the vote in the first round, which had been held in October. Rajaonarimampianina, by contrast, had garnered only 16 percent of the vote in the first round.

'Develop our country together'

Rajaonarimampianina called for calm after Friday's announcement.

"I will be the president of all of you without distinction," he said.

"I'm asking for your help so we can develop the country. I believe all of you will be there, young and old. Wherever you are we will develop our country together."

Political instability has gripped Madagascar since a military-backed coup in 2009 led to the ouster of President Marc Ravalomanana. In reaction to the move, many nations withdrew financial aid from the country and refused to recognize its transitional government. The loss of investment led to the implementation of austerity measures by the government, undermining signs of economic growth seen under Ravalomanana from 2002-2009.

Tourism also dropped by about 50 percent in the wake of the political crisis.

A power-sharing agreement had originally decreed that a new government would be elected at the end of a 15-month transitional period after the 2009 coup. However, the original deadline to hold an election was repeatedly postponed, because of, among other things, attempts by both interim President Rajoelina and ousted President Ravalomanana to run, despite their having been barred from seeking office. Instead, Rajaonarimampianina ran with the backing of interim President Rajoelina, while Louis had the support of exiled former leader Ravalomanana.

kms/pfd (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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