Two former presidents of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana, have topped polls in the country’s latest election, results have shown, and are set to compete in a runoff next month.
Neither won the 50 percent of votes required for a first-round victory, with Rajoelina at 39.19 percent and Ravalomanana at 35.29 percent, according to final results from the country’s CENI election commission released on Saturday.
The runoff was scheduled for December 19.
Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who was running to hold onto power, secured only 8.84 percent of the vote, the commission said, before adding that the turnout at last week’s election was 54.3 percent.
All three candidates, of a total 36, have alleged fraud and malpractice by election authorities, and the result will be subject to fierce legal appeals.
Regional and international observers reported “very minor” anomalies during the voting process.
“We have adopted three rules of conduct: transparency, impartiality and independence,” CENI President Hery Rakotomanana said as the final results were announced on the Indian Ocean island.
“We have not accepted any orders from anyone in this election … no favours have been given to anyone.”
Both leading candidates hope to claim a first-round victory through the courts.
Ravalomanana’s campaign welcomed the final results, but Hanitra Razafimanantso, an official from his TIM party, said it “would make use of the right of appeal to the Constitutional Court in view of election irregularities”.
Rajoelina’s campaign team was not present when the results were announced, and has already filed an application to the Constitutional Court over alleged fraud in the vote counting.
The court will proclaim the official results after reviewing candidates’ complaints.
Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest countries, according to World Bank data, with almost four in five people living in grinding poverty.
But the frontrunners spent huge sums during the first round on flashy campaign rallies, helicopters and giveaways such as free T-shirts for supporters.
A European Union observer mission said Monday that it had “noted candidates committed breaches” ahead of the November 7 poll.
Both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina were banned from running in the last election in 2013 under international pressure to avoid a repeat of the deadly political violence that engulfed the island in 2009.
Ravalomanana, 68, and Rajoelina, 44, are bitter rivals. It is the first time they have faced each other at the ballot box.
Ravalomanana ruled from 2002 to 2009 until he was overthrown in a military-backed coup that installed Rajoelina, who was in power until 2014.
Rajaonarimampianina succeeded him, ruling until earlier this year.
Rajaonarimampianina’s attempts to change the electoral laws this year backfired, sparking nearly three months of sometimes violent protests in the capital Antananarivo.
The demonstrators forced Rajaonarimampianina to accept a “consensus” government tasked with organising the election in the former French colony, which is burdened by a long history of coups and unrest.
African Union observers have called on the contenders to “show restraint and respect the law”.