President Hery Rajaonarimampianina is seeking a second term and faces a strong challenge from two predecessors.
Madagascar’s former presidents Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana were neck-and-neck in the country’s presidential race according to partial results published by the electoral commission on Thursday.
Rajoelina won 43.5 percent of votes cast in Wednesday’s vote, while Ravalomanana secured 42.44 percent, according to results from 147 polling stations out of 24,852 nationwide.
The incumbent President Hery Rajaonarimampianina trailed with 2.93 percent of the votes counted so far.
The national electoral commission (CENI) estimated turnout at 47.18 percent in elections which saw a total of 36 candidates.
Following the vote, Rajoelina and Ravalomanana both told their supporters they were confident of victory.
Rajaonarimampianina has yet to comment.
Voters are eager to get a winner who will tackle the impoverished Indian Ocean island’s myriad problems including unemployment and corruption.
“Even if the results are not yet official, the trend of victory of the Malagasy people and Madagascar is emerging,” Rajoelina told his supporters late on Wednesday at his campaign headquarters in the capital.
Ravalomanana, too promised victory to his supporters, “I encourage you to be calm and to be careful, not to take into account some misleading figures … we will win, do not worry.”
Because of the unusually high number of contestants, few expect an outright winner and the poll is widely expected to go into a second round. This would involve only the two top candidates and would be held on December 19.
On Wednesday the head of the European Union’s observer mission, Cristian Preda, said his team deployed across the country had not yet detected any anomalies in the polls, which he said were key for the restoration of Madagascar’s democratic credentials.
Observers are hoping for the second peaceful election since the upheaval of 2009, when Ravalomanana was forced out of office by protests led by Rajoelina in what international organisations such as the African Union said was a coup.