Madagascar’s incumbent President Andry Rajoelina cast his vote in the presidential election held on Thursday, November 16th, among 13 candidates competing for the top position. However, 10 of the other contenders urged voters to boycott the elections, alleging an “institutional coup” favoring Rajoelina.
With approximately 11 million registered voters in a country of roughly 30 million people, Rajoelina emphasized the significance of citizens exercising their voting rights and set an example by participating in the electoral process.
“I’m setting an example as a statesman, not just as a politician, to encourage the population to vote,” Rajoelina remarked, expressing satisfaction at the widespread turnout across Madagascar.
Notably, First Lady Mialy Rajoelina and the couple’s first son also voted at the same Antananarivo polling station.
The nation faced upheaval since June after reports surfaced that the president had obtained French citizenship in 2014. This revelation stirred controversy as local law stipulates that the president should forfeit Malagascan nationality and thus his eligibility to lead the country.
Rajoelina defended his acquisition of French citizenship, citing reasons related to his children’s education abroad.
Tensions escalated further due to a ruling allowing an ally of the president to take over temporarily after Rajoelina resigned to run for re-election, leading to opposition-led protests and complaints about electoral irregularities.
As a response to unrest, authorities imposed a nighttime curfew in Antananarivo following reported acts of sabotage. However, Rajoelina commended the people’s wisdom amid efforts to disrupt the election process.
Voter turnout holds significance, with polling stations closing at 2 PM GMT. Rajoelina expressed confidence in the Malagasy people’s choice, anticipating a potential run-off election on December 20th.
International observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union, and European Union monitored the vote.
Rajoelina, who first assumed power in 2009 through a coup and subsequently won the 2018 election, faces criticism over perceived lack of progress despite his prolonged tenure.
Amidst political fervor, many Malagasies prioritize daily survival over politics, expressing disillusionment with the current governance and a desire for a better life through this election.