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Madagascar votes in showdown between ex-leaders

December 19, 2018

Polling stations in Madagascar have opened in a runoff presidential election that pits two former leaders — and rivals — against each other. Analysts have warned that the battle could revive instability in the country.

Madagascans vote in runoff election
Image: picture-alliance/AP/T. Hadebe

Voters in Madagascar headed to the polls on Wednesday in a presidential runoff election between two former presidents who are battling for power in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Madagascar's ten million registered voters will choose between Marc Ravalomanana, who served as president from 2002 to 2009, and Andry Rajoelina, who was president from 2009 to 2014.

The first round vote in November saw both candidates coming in a close first and second, with Rajoelina taking 39 percent of the vote, while Ravalomanana garnered 35 percent.

Ravalomanana was forced to resign in 2009 by violent protests that were supported by Rajoelina, who was then installed by the army as the next leader.

Both men were banned from running in the 2013 election as part of an agreement to end recurring crises that have plagued the island nation since its independence from France in 1960.

Voters will be able to cast their ballots at Madagascar's 25,000 polling stations until 5 p.m. local time (1400 UTC).

Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina
The race has been tight between former presidents Marc Ravalomanana (L) and Andry Rajoelina (R)

Clash of 'two egos'

Although both candidates have said they will accept the runoff election's results, they both claimed to be victims of voter fraud and cheating following the first round.

Should the losing candidate cry foul following Wednesday's election, some analysts warn that the fallout could hurt Madagascar'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 (Sefafi).

Although Madagascar is renowned for its vanilla, redwood and ecological diversity, the country is one of the poorest in the world. According to World Bank data, 76 percent of people in Madagascar are living in extreme poverty.

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rs/rc (AP, AFP)