Madagascar will hold elections on Friday in an effort to end political tensions that erupted in a 2009 coup and lift the aid-dependent country out of poverty. The island nation, off Africa’s east coast in the Indian Ocean, plunged into turmoil after Andry Rajoelina, a former disc jockey and mayor of the capital Antananarivo, seized power with the help of the military. Ousted President Marc Ravalomanana went into exile in South Africa. The coup resulted in the suspension of much-needed foreign aid. Madagascar was suspended from the African Union and the 15-nation Southern African Development Community, or SADC, until a constitutionally elected government was restored. With 33 candidates running in the election, it could prove difficult for a clear winner to emerge in the first round. If none of the candidates garners more than 50 percent of the votes, the two top candidates will compete in a runoff scheduled for Dec. 20. Nine candidates, including three key politicians, were barred from taking part in the polls as part of a plan to resolve the political crisis. Former presidents Rajoelina and Didier Ratsiraka and former president Ravalomanana’s wife, Lalao, were excluded for failing to comply with the country’s electoral laws.
The two front-runners are backed by Rajoelina and Ravalomanana. Former finance minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina has been endorsed by Rajoelina and medical doctor Robinson Jean Louis is Ravalomanana’s candidate.
The nation’s electoral body says more than 7.8 million eligible voters will cast their ballots Friday at 20 000 polling stations across the nation.
Former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, the regional mediator from SADC, urged voters to “come out in their numbers to exercise their democratic right to freely and peacefully vote for the leader of their choice.”
“This is a very important day in the history of Madagascar,” Chissano said Thursday.