Madagascar to Hold Presidential Run-Off After No Outright Winner

Madagascar presidential candidate Jean Louis Robinson will compete in a run-off against former Finance Minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina after no candidate scored sufficient votes for an outright majority.

Robinson, a medical doctor and former minister in ousted President Marc Ravalomanana’s government, secured 21.1 percent in the first round of voting on Oct. 25, electoral commission President Beatrice Atallah told reporters today in the capital, Antananarivo. Rajaonarimampianina got 15.9 percent support. The rest of the vote was split among 31 other candidates. The run-off will be held on Dec. 20, along with legislative elections.

The winner will replace Andry Rajoelina, a former nightclub disc jockey who ousted Ravalomanana in a military-backed coup in 2009, sinking the country into an economic crisis as the U.S. and European Union froze budget aid. The economy stalled and the government was forced to scale back services including education, water and health care, deepening poverty in the world’s second-largest vanilla-producing nation. Ninety-two percent of people live on less than $2 a day, up 10 percentage points in four years.

Polarization among voters will probably intensify during the second round, fueling tensions that could lead to violence, Robert Besseling, a senior analyst with IHS Country Risk, said in an e-mailed note on Nov. 6.

Faced with the possibility of defeat, supporters of Rajoelina, who backs Rajaonarimampianina, may try and discredit the elections, while allies of Ravalomanana may organize mass demonstrations, he said.

Political Stakes

“The political stakes ahead of the Dec. 20 run-off will be much higher than in October’s first round,” Besseling said.

“Violent confrontations between partisan supporters and security forces, which are also polarized between the two camps, are likely ahead of the run-off” in towns and cities including Antananarivo, “raising the risks of injury and property damage in the vicinity of any protests,” he said.

The two rivals in the second round are proxy candidates who may allow Rajoelina or Ravalomanana to run the country from the sidelines, according to political analysts including Strategic Forecasting Inc. and Besseling.

“These factions are now likely to seek political support from presidential candidates that did not move into the second round, effectively polarizing the next poll into two rival camps,” Besseling said.

Mineral Wealth

Madagascar’s mineral wealth is being developed by companies including London-based Rio Tinto Plc, which has a $5 billion titanium mine, and Canada’s Sherritt International Corp., which has a 40 percent stake in a nickel operation.

The economy is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to expand 2.6 percent this year and 3.8 percent the next, after recording no growth over the previous four years.

At least 12 complaints have been filed at the special electoral court over reports of irregularities in voter registration and ballot counting, the Antananarivo-based L’Express newspaper reported on Nov. 5.

The elections were declared free and fair by observers from the African Union, European Union and Southern African Development Community.

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