Madagascar President Aspirant Backed by Exiled Leader Leads Vote

A former health minister in Madagascar backed by ousted President Marc Ravalomanana took the lead in early vote counting in presidential elections, according to the country’s electoral agency.

Jean Louis Robinson, of the Avana party, has captured 27.8 percent of votes cast, based on the results from about half of the 20,001 polling stations, according to Madagascar’s electoral agency based in the capital, Antananarivo. Finance Minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina has 14.7 percent of support.

Full provisional results are due by Nov. 8 and the leading candidate needs to clear the 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff. Thirty-three candidates ran in the Oct. 25 election and the turnout of 7.8 million registered voters was 58.4 percent.

The election to replace Andry Rajoelina is the first since he took power in a 2009 coup backed by the military, removing Ravalomanana and plunging the country into an economic crisis.

Madagascar has recorded no growth in the economy in the past four years, with 92 percent of the population now living on less than $2 a day, up 10 percentage points in the period, according to the World Bank. It was stripped of duty-free, quota-free trade access to the U.S. market, crippling the textile industry, which had been a driver of foreign investment and jobs, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service. Donors including the U.S. and European Union froze aid.

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 operation, and Lemur Resources Ltd., a Perth, Australia-based coal-exploration company, runs the Imaloto thermal-coal project.

While Rajoelina and Ravalomanana, who lives in exile in South Africa, were barred from competing, they favor candidates who will allow them to run the country from the sidelines, according to U.S.-based Strategic Forecasting Inc.

A second round of voting, if needed, would be held Dec. 20, along with legislative elections. Most candidates made similar promises to help rebuild the economy of the world’s second-largest vanilla grower and improve security conditions, according to StrategiCo, a France-based risk-analysis company.

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