afrol News, 25 January - Overruling the popular demand of declaring Antananarivo mayor Marc Ravalomanana the winner of December's presidential elections, the Malagasy High Constitutional Court today ordered a run-off between Ravalomanana and incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka.
Ravalomanana and up to hundred thousand of his demonstrating supporters had requested an independent review of the votes, which they claim would have demonstrated that Ravalomanana indeed obtained over 50 percent of the vote in the first poll round on 18 December. Antananarivo streets have seen 10,000 to 100,000 daily demonstrators in support for its popular mayor.
Ravalomanana reportedly immediately rejected the Constitutional Court's ruling, reiterating his claim that he had garnered enough votes in the first round. The Court however maintains there was no proof any of the two leading candidates had won outright. The second pool must be held within 30 days, the Court ruled.
According to provisional results published early in January, Ravalomanana had gained 46.6 percent of the votes, while Ratsiraka had noted a score of 40.4 percent. This being correct would have implied a second poll round for these two candidates. Ravalomanana however is backed by the independent Malagasy National Consortium of Election Observers when claiming he actually won 50.49 percent of the votes.
Last week, the High Constitutional Court bowed to the pressure of the protesting masses and ordered a recount. Results from an estimated 25 percent of the polling stations had however either been lost or destroyed, observers in Madagascar say, making a recount impossible. The court had also said that 36 polling stations had not functioned at all.
Ravalomanana, about 30 minutes after the ruling was announced, spoke to the Antananarivo demonstrators and called for further daily manifestations. "We refuse this verdict and we will stay on [this square] until all our demands are accepted," Ravalomanana was quoted as saying to a peaceful demonstration in the centre of the capital.
Ravalomanana also told his supporters he would address them again with a plan of action at a mass rally in the capital on Saturday. Analysts however believe the Court will not bow into pressure once more, and that the second round will be held, non-regarding the crowds mobilised by the Antananarivo mayor.
The opposition candidate has received massive support for his views both internationally and in Madagascar. Election observers agree the poll was tainted by irregularities and that the National Electoral Commission had contributed with manipulations probably in favour of the incumbent President. The USA and the UN however have urged all parties to find a quick solution, implying Ravalomanana should accept the run-off.