ANTANANARIVO – MADAGASCAR is likely to see TWO former presidents competing in a possible run-off election next month.

One of the candidates in the hotly contested election (Pic. SNA)

SEYCHELLES News Agency, SNA, quotes other media reports as saying earliest results indicate ANDRY RAJOELINA has clinched 39-POINT-SIX-ONE percent against the 35-POINT-15 percent of MARC RAVALOMANANA.

It says the Independent National Electoral Commission had counted some 84 percent of the ballots in the FIRST round of the vote as of today (THURSDAY).

Former presidents RAJOELINA and RAVALOMANANA are heading for the SECOND round after beating outgoing President HERY RAJAONARIMAMPIANINA, who sits on the THIRD position out of 36 candidates – with EIGHT percent of the vote.

AFP news agency quotes MALAGASY political expert MAHERY LANTO MANANDAFY as saying given the results of the Electoral Commission, the SECOND round is now unavoidable.

The agency says the MALAGASY electoral regulations require the TWO frontrunners to go for a run-off by 19 DECEMBER, if neither manages more than 50 percent in the FIRST round.

However, it quotes yet another political commentator as saying anything is still possible if Mr RAJOELINA and RAVALOMANANA lodge a complaint in the courts.

TOAVINA RALAMBOMAHAY says everyone hopes to be elected in the FIRST round because a SECOND round ballot brings huge campaign costs.

AFP says MADAGASCAR is ONE of the poorest countries in the world, according to World Bank data, with almost FOUR in every FIVE people in the INDIAN Ocean island country living in grinding poverty.

Nevertheless, it says the candidates spent huge sums on flashy campaign rallies, helicopters and giveaways like free T-shirts for supporters; and the THREE leading contenders have accused electoral authorities of fraud and malpractice.

However, the news report does not give any further details about the alleged deception and misconduct by the voting managers.

Meanwhile, the EUROPEAN UNION Observer Mission reportedly has issued a statement saying while candidates committed breaches ahead of the SEVEN NOVEMBER election, the voting process was well organised largely.

Electoral Commission Vice President THIERRY RAKOTONARIVO has dismissed the alleged mismanagement of the process, saying all the results they have published are verifiable.

Both former presidents RAJOELINA and RAVALOMANANA were banned from contesting the last election in 2013 under international pressure, to avoid a repeat of political violence that engulfed MADAGASCAR in 2009.

AFP says Mr RAVALOMANANA, 68, and Mr RAJOELINA, 44, are bitter rivals who are facing each other for the FIRST time at the polls.

It says Mr RAVALOMANANA ruled from 2002 to 2009 until he was ousted in a military-backed coup that installed Mr RAJOELINA, who remained in power up to 2014.

Outgoing President RAJAONARIMAMPIANINA took over until earlier this year when he tried to change the electoral laws, a move that backfired and sparked about THREE months of often-violent demonstrations in the capital, ANTANANARIVO.

AFP says the demonstrators forced him to accept what they termed a consensus government to organise 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 THREE leading presidential candidates in MADAGASCAR to show restraint and respect the law./Sabanews/cam

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