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Madagascar to hold election in bid to end crisis

Madagascar to hold election to end political deadlock and recover foreign aid

A woman feeds her baby at their home in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold elections on Friday that o...
A woman, left,  washes clothes at her home were she sells second hand goods in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. The isla...
A man walks past a wall covered in posters for election candidates , in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will...
A supporter of Presidential candidate Hery Rajaonarimampianina, displays his poster, outside his home in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursda...
Children play, with empty bottles and tins,  near their homes  in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013.  Madagascar will hold...
A man carrying a box, as he  walks past rice fields in Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold elections on Friday tha...
A man holds out a plate of food for his wife and child in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold election...
A soldier directs traffic in the city of  Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold elections on Friday that organizers ...
A woman plays with her baby as she washes him at their home in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold ele...
A man selling food stuff walks home, past  rice field's near the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold elect...
A man cast his fishing net in a river near the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold elections on Friday tha...

APTOPIX Madagascar Elections

A woman feeds her baby at their home in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold elections on Friday that o...

Madagascar Elections

A woman, left, washes clothes at her home were she sells second hand goods in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. The isla...

Madagascar Elections

A man walks past a wall covered in posters for election candidates , in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will...

Madagascar Elections

A supporter of Presidential candidate Hery Rajaonarimampianina, displays his poster, outside his home in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursda...

Madagascar Elections

Children play, with empty bottles and tins, near their homes in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold...

Madagascar Elections

A man carrying a box, as he walks past rice fields in Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold elections on Friday tha...

Madagascar Elections

A man holds out a plate of food for his wife and child in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold election...

Madagascar Elections

A soldier directs traffic in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold elections on Friday that organizers ...

Madagascar Elections

A woman plays with her baby as she washes him at their home in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold ele...

Madagascar Elections

A man selling food stuff walks home, past rice field's near the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold elect...

Madagascar Elections

A man cast his fishing net in a river near the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Madagascar will hold elections on Friday tha...

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) -- Madagascar will hold elections on Friday in an effort to end political tensions that erupted in a 2009 coup and lift the aid-dependent country out of poverty.

The island nation, off Africa's east coast in the Indian Ocean, plunged into turmoil after Andry Rajoelina, a former disc jockey and mayor of the capital Antananarivo, seized power with the help of the military. Ousted President Marc Ravalomanana went into exile in South Africa.

The coup resulted in the suspension of much-needed foreign aid. Madagascar was suspended from the African Union and the 15-nation Southern African Development Community, or SADC, until a constitutionally elected government was restored.

With 33 candidates running in the election, it could prove difficult for a clear winner to emerge in the first round. If none of the candidates garners more than 50 percent of the votes, the two top candidates will compete in a runoff scheduled for Dec. 20.

Nine candidates, including three key politicians, were barred from taking part in the polls as part of a plan to resolve the political crisis. Former presidents Rajoelina and Didier Ratsiraka and former president Ravalomanana's wife, Lalao, were excluded for failing to comply with the country's electoral laws.

The two front-runners are backed by Rajoelina and Ravalomanana. Former finance minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina has been endorsed by Rajoelina and medical doctor Robinson Jean Louis is Ravalomanana's candidate.

The nation's electoral body says more than 7.8 million eligible voters will cast their ballots Friday at 20,000 polling stations across the nation.

Former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, the regional mediator from SADC, urged voters to "come out in their numbers to exercise their democratic right to freely and peacefully vote for the leader of their choice."

"This is a very important day in the history of Madagascar," Chissano said Thursday.

The United States-based Carter Center said Thursday it has partnered with a local rights group, the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, to be part of the 700 international observers monitoring the polls.

The election results will be announced within 10 days after the voting.

Friday's vote will bring hope to the 22 million islanders who have endured years of spiraling poverty since the 2009 coup, said Steven Lauwerier, UNICEF's representative in Madagascar. He said there is a sense of hope and relief in Madagscar ahead of the election.

"They want a kind of change," said he said at a news conference in Johannesburg this week.

Tourism in the island nation has taken a hit this year, partly because of fears of unrest during the election campaign. The deaths of two tourists at the hands of a mob on a northern tourist island early this month also had a negative impact. Countries issued travel warnings after the attacks and visitors stopped coming.

The killings of the tourists show "a distrust in the justice system," Lauwerier said.

Poverty is a serious problem in Madagascar. The average daily salary in rural areas is the equivalent of $1.10, and a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of rice costs 75 cents, said Maherisoa Rakotonirainy, a representative of the U.N. World Food Program in Madagascar. That leaves families struggling to pay for cooking oil and other staples, as well as transport, education and other necessities.

Half of the country's children less than five years old suffer from chronic malnutrition and more than 1.5 million children are not in school, according to the U.N. Madagascar has also suffered from recurrent cyclones that have devastated parts of the country.

___

Gotora contributed to this report from Johannesburg.


Updated : 2021-03-06 20:08 GMT+08:00