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Madagascar Presidential Aspirant Backed by Rajoelina Leads Polls

Madagascar’s former finance minister, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, is leading the race to become the Indian Ocean island nation’s next president, the electoral commission said, with 95 percent of ballots counted.

Rajaonarimampianina has garnered 53 percent support while rival Jean Louis Robinson, an ex-health minister and medical doctor, trailed with 47 percent in the Dec. 20 second round of voting, according to information from the Antananarivo-based Independent National Election Commission.

The elections are meant to help the nation return to political stability following a coup five years ago when Andry Rajoelina seized power from then-president Marc Ravalomanana, backed by the military. That plunged the world’s second-largest vanilla grower into an economic crisis as donors froze budgetary aid and the U.S. revoked a preferential trade deal.

Rajaonarimampianina is backed by Rajoelina, while Robinson has the support of Ravalomanana.

Robinson said the election was tainted by vote-rigging, with the number of ballots cast exceeding the number of registered voters in some polling stations.

“We can’t take power by force,” Robinson said yesterday, according to a press conference broadcast by TV Plus Madagascar. “We will ask for a recount.”

International observers determined that the run-off met democratic standards, Maria Muniz de Urquiza, head of the European Union’s observation mission, said this month.

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