afrol News, 17 January - The Malagasy High Constitutional Court has bowed to the pressure of the protesting masses and ordered a recount of the contested first round of the 16 December presidential elections. The opposition claims their candidate won the first round outright.
According to provisional results published early in January, opposition candidate Marc Ravalomanana had gained 46.6 percent of the votes, while incumbent Didier Ratsiraka had noted a score of 40.4 percent. This would imply a second poll round for these two candidates.
Ravalomanana and his followers however have claimed the numbers were rigged by the government and that he won the first round with 53 percent. Reports by an "observers consortium" involved in the vote count have supported Ravalomanana's claim, saying he won at least 50.5 percent of the vote.
The announcement of a second poll round despite the widespread belief Ravalomanana had won in the first round sparkled massive demonstrations in the capital Antananarivo, where Ravalomanana is mayor. Crows from 10,000 up to 100,000 people have been observed in the capital since the daily manifestations started on 6 January.
The independent Malagasy National Consortium of Election Observers (CNOE) joined the pressure against the government this week, claiming Ravalomanana indeed had obtained 50.49 percent of the votes against 37.68 percent for President Ratsiraka. CNOE also claimed it had discovered "shortcomings and fraudulent acts by the Interior ministry and the Information ministry."
André Rasolo, head of the CNOE, told the French news agency AFP results from the other 25 percent of polling stations had been either lost or destroyed, but that his group considered the 75 percent it had counted to be representative of the national average. "We are stopping there, and we conclude that victory lies with Marc Ravalomanana," Rasolo stated.
This week, also the international pressure against the Malagasy government increased. International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (IFHR) on 11 January made a statement expressing concern about the situation on Madagascar.
IFHR said it only trusted in "an objective and transparent decision by the High Constitutional Court (the only that rightfully can proclaim the official results of the elections)" and that such a decision should be based on the results from all the poll stations.
Yesterday, the CNOE election observers made public they had written to the governments of the US, France, Germany, Russia as well as to the European Union and the Francophonie organisation urging them "to press for transparency and fairness in the vote count."
The decision by the High Constitutional Court to recount the votes might ease the tension in Madagascar, observers on the island believe. It is however unclear whether a total recount can be accomplished, as several sources claim that up to 25 percent of the voting slips have been lost or destroyed.
It is also unclear hove long such a recount could take, as National Electoral Commission (NEC) yet has to publish the final results of the first count. The NEC is also to undertake the recount, according to the High Court decision. The court also ordered a comparison of return sheets used by the government and Ravalomanana's party.