Madagascar’s former Finance Minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina won the presidential run-off to replace his backer Andry Rajoelina, who came to power in a coup almost five years ago that crippled the economy.
Rajaonarimampianina secured 53.5 percent of support, defeating Jean Louis Robinson, a former health minister in ousted President Marc Ravalomanana’s government, with 46.5 percent, the electoral commission said on its website today.
The election was the first since Rajoelina took over in a military-backed coup in 2009, plunging the country into an economic crisis as donors including the European Union froze budget aid and the U.S. suspended preferential trade terms.
The economy stalled and the government curbed services including education, water and health care, deepening poverty. About nine of every 10 people in the country of 22 million now live on less than $2 a day, according to the World Bank.
Rajaonarimampianina positioned himself as a unifying force during the election campaign, which may bode well for the country as efforts are made to rebuild investor confidence and mend political rifts, Davida Rajaon, president of the Madagascar Institute for Political Studies, said by e-mail.
“The future government of Hery Rajaonarimampianina can be seen in this behavior, it could be calm, rational and organized,” said Rajaon. “It could be an open government.”
Robinson said on Dec. 30 that he believed the election had been marred by voter fraud, while urging his supporters to remain patient as he demanded a recount. Voter turnout was 50.7 percent in the Dec. 20 runoff, the electoral commission said. International observers said the vote met democratic standards.
The crisis in Madagascar has cost the economy, which relies on mainly tourism, agriculture, and mining, about $8 billion in lost output, according to the World Bank.
Rio Tinto Plc, 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 mine, and Lemur Resources Ltd., a Perth, Australia-based coal-exploration company, operates the Imaloto thermal-coal project. The country also produces sapphires and is the world’s second-biggest vanilla grower.
The economy is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to expand 3.8 percent this year from an estimated 2.6 percent in 2013.