Voters in Madagascar head to the polls for a presidential run-off that may help pull the country out of a five-year political crisis that prompted international donors to freeze aid and stalled the economy.
The vote pits Jean Louis Robinson, a medical doctor and former cabinet minister, against one-time Finance Minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina. Polling stations are open 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time and the electoral commission expects to release provisional results on Jan. 7. There’s also a legislative vote today, with the outcome expected to be announced on Jan. 19.
Elections “will mean a return to the constitutional order and Madagascar can take its place again in the international community,” Davida Rajaon, president of the Madagascar Institute for Political Studies, said in an interview. “The most important will be that Madagascar will be able to relaunch its economy and start to improve its social situation.”
The aspirants are vying to replace Andry Rajoelina, who deposed then-President Marc Ravalomanana in a 2009 coup that caused donors to halt at least $400 million in aid and the U.S. to suspend the country’s preferential trading status.
Robinson and Rajaonarimampianina are viewed as proxy candidates for Ravalomanana and Rajoelina, respectively, according to political analysts at companies including Strategic Forecasting Inc. and IHS Country Risk.
Economic growth slowed to a standstill since the coup and the World Bank estimates nine out of every 10 people in the country of 22 million now lives on less than $2 a day as the cuts to budgetary aid forced the government to slash services.
Rio Tinto Plc (RIO), based in London, has a $5 billion titanium mine in the country, Canada’s Sherritt International Corp. has a 40 percent stake in the Ambatovy nickel operation, and Lemur Resources Ltd., a Perth, Australia-based coal-exploration company, runs the Imaloto thermal-coal project.
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