Africa News Bulletin

Madagascar Presidential Election Commences Amidst Boycott Challenges.

Polls opened in Madagascar on Thursday for the presidential election, marked by a boycott from most opposition candidates over concerns about the election’s integrity.

Despite being the leading global producer of vanilla, Madagascar remains one of the world’s poorest countries, grappling with political crises since its independence from France in 1960.

President Andry Rajoelina has dismissed criticism and exuded confidence in securing re-election in the first round of voting.

Journalists reported a calm start to voting on Thursday morning after a period of nighttime curfews and weeks of protests. Polls are set to close at 05:00 pm (1400 GMT).

Alain Randriamandimby, a 43-year-old T-shirt printer, expressed the sentiment of wanting a peaceful election: “We don’t want any more demonstrations, we don’t want any more problems in the country. We want to choose for ourselves, by voting.”

Among the 13 candidates on the ballot, Rajoelina faces opposition as 10 others urged voters to boycott the elections, citing an ‘institutional coup’ in favor of the incumbent.

Since early October, the opposition, including two former presidents, has led frequent unauthorized protest marches in the capital, often dispersed by police using tear gas.

“We appeal to everyone not to vote. Conditions for a transparent presidential election, accepted by all, have not been met,” said protesting candidate Roland Ratsiraka.

The tension escalated with authorities imposing a nighttime curfew in Antananarivo following reported acts of sabotage.

Rajoelina, who first assumed power in 2009 through a coup, then later secured a winning comeback in 2018, continued campaigning despite opposition refusals. His opponents’ refusal to campaign prompted Rajoelina to showcase development projects across the nation.

His campaign spokeswoman Lalatiana Rakotondrazafy criticized the opposition, accusing them of aiming to sabotage the vote and take the nation hostage.

With 11 million people registered to vote in the country of approximately 30 million, Rajoelina’s key challenge amidst the boycott is to achieve a strong voter turnout. In the previous elections in 2018, less than 55% of registered voters participated in the first round.

For many citizens, political participation isn’t a priority, with daily survival being their main concern. Some expressed disappointment in Rajoelina’s governance, stating they see little progress after 11 years in power.

The opposition, dissatisfied with the electoral process, has vowed to continue protesting until a fair election is conducted.

International observer missions from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union, and the European Union are present to monitor the election.

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