Madagascar’s Presidential Aspirants Compete in Second Round

Voters in Madagascar cast ballots in 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 pitted Jean Louis Robinson, a doctor and former cabinet minister, against one-time Finance Minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina. Polls closed at about 5 p.m. local time and the electoral commission expects to release provisional results on Jan. 7. There was also a legislative vote today, with the outcome expected to be announced on Jan. 19.

“The objective of these elections is to get Madagascar out of the crisis, but I don’t really believe that those in power will let Dr. Robinson win, so there will be trouble afterwards,” James Randriaharimalala, an 80-year-old retired civil servant, said at a voting station in the Itaosy neighborhood on the outskirts of Antananarivo, the capital.

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.

Constitutional Order

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.”

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 reduce services.

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.

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