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Madagascar poll: EU recommends limit on campaign financing

Madagascar poll: EU recommends limit on campaign financing

Madagascar

EU approval, incumbent president claims fraud

While Madagascar’s president Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who is running for a second term, has complained about some electoral irregularities, the EU observer said on Friday that it had enough enough irregularities to affect the outcome of Wednesday’s election.

Rajaonarimampianina on Thursday complained against the use of an invalid voter register, delays in the opening of the polls in some places, intimidation and ballot-stuffing.

But the EU’s chief observer Cristian Preda said any irregularities observed so far were not sufficient to change the outcome or call the vote into question.

I hope and I pray for a change.

“We are in a good atmosphere. The disputes are part of the democratic game… it’s normal, it’s human. Disputes must be handled by the law enforcement bodies,” Preda said.

Campaign financing

He however noted that the lack of a cap on campaign spending by the candidates had put some at a disadvantage, without providing any names.

The result of the first round of voting in one of the world’s poorest countries could hinge in part on which of the frontrunners, all wealthy men, spent the most money.

“In 2013, the European Union recommended capping candidate expenses and in future reports, there will still be this recommendation,” Preda said.

ALSO READ: Madagascar Presidential candidates express concern over finance

Leading candidates optimistic

As election officials count votes, following Wednesday’s presidential poll, the frontrunners have expressed optimist about their chances of winning.

Incumbent president Hery Rajaonarimampianina, is facing a stiff challenge from two former presidents, Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina.

“I am optimistic and positive, I do not think there will be a second round,” dairy tycoon Marc Ravalomanana said at his political headquarters, where dozens of supporters gathered.

For his part, former nightclub promoter Andry Rajoelina spoke to hundreds of supporters gathered at the studio of his TV chain Viva, saying he was satisfied the early results “express the desire for change.”

Rajaonarimampianina called it “a big day… a victory for democracy” after casting his ballot.

While election observers are hoping for a peaceful election, having detected no anomalies in the polls, some are worried about the possibility of a second round.

“The big risk of this election is that it will return us to an era of crisis,” said Sahondra Rabenarivo, an analyst at the Malagasy Observatory on Public Life.

“It’s very important that the results are credible and that the third-placed candidate accepts them.”

If the poll needs to go to a second round, it will involve only the two top candidates and take place on Dec. 19.

Polls close, issues during voting

Polling stations closed in Madagscar at 5pm local time (14:00GMT), having opened as early as 6am (3:00GMT).

While the head of the European Union’s observer mission, Cristian Preda, reported that there were no issued during the voting, some voters in the capital reportedly could not find their names on the voters’ register.

With close to 10 million registered voters, the electoral body, CENI reported a turnout of 40%.

Vote counting is now underway, in the presidential race that pit incumbent President Hery Rajaonarimampianina against his two main challengers are former heads of state: Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina.

Polls open

The Malagasy people demonstrated enthusiasm as they started voting early on Wednesday morning in a presidential election, hoping for change of the Indian Ocean island’s fortunes in terms of job opportunities, poverty eradication and corruption.

Voter Sahondramalala Nirisoa told Reuters she had arrived early because she needed to get to work.

“I hope and I pray for a change,” she said. “That is why I came to vote.”

Background

There are nearly 10 million registered voters in the country of 25 million people, data from the electoral commission showed.

Few analysts expect an outright winner from the 36 total who are contesting.

All three leading candidates have criss-crossed the island in a hunt for votes and each has pledged to accelerate recovery for an economy the International Monetary Fund forecasts will grow at more than 5 percent this year, its highest rate in a decade.

If the poll needs to go to a second round, it will involve only the two top candidates and take place on Dec. 19.

Since a peaceful election in 2013, investors and donor governments re-engaged following a four-year freeze that began after Rajoelina came to power.

The events of 2009 prompted an exodus of foreign investors from a country that is one of the world’s poorest despite reserves of nickel, cobalt, gold, uranium and other minerals.

The island was hit by a fresh political crisis in April sparked by a legal amendment by Rajaonarimampianina’s government that would have prevented Ravalomanana from standing for office.

Rajaonarimampianina approved a new law removing that provision the following month, allowing Ravalomanana to register as a candidate.

READ MORE: Madagascar presidential polls: Here’s everything you need to know
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