- It seems the incumbent President Marc Ravalomanana is on the verge of sweeping the Sunday President polls. While final results would not be disclosed until 20 days later, Mr Ravalomanana has already polled over 65 percent of the votes, a figure slightly below the previous results of over 70 percent. Observers mainly praise the polls.
Madagascar's millionaire President, who has launched a helicopter campaign on the road to election, is seeking for a second term in office. He has been challenged by 13 other candidates, including only one woman.
So far, 14 percent of polling stations results have been counted in the world's fourth biggest island that is leader in vanilla production.
The preliminary results put the nephew of the ousted President, Roland Ratsiraka on second with over 8 percent of the votes.
Herizo Razafimahaleo and former Prime Minister Norbert Lala Ratsirahonana garnered 7.15 and 6.99 percents of the votes, respectively.
Marc Ravalomanana will win an outright re-election only if he polls 50 percent of the results. On the other hand, the electoral commission under the aegis of the Interior Ministry is expected to organise elections 30 days after the polls.
Despite some hitches and blights, international election observers generally endorsed the election as free and fair. The observers reported some mistakes on electoral lists and disparities between candidates' access to financial and media resources.
"Despite the gaps and weaknesses, it was conducted to a large degree in a manner which allowed the Malagasy people to express freely their democratic choice," Paul Berenger, former Mauritius Prime Minister and leader of a leading electoral observer team told 'Reuters'.
Opposition candidates before the poll had started an international campaign to denounce the unfair situation for the opposition, claiming that the President was abusing his power over state media. Private media also complained over a biased state apparatus. Several candidates had also been barred from challenging Mr Ravalomanana.
President Ravalomanana (56) started as a small yogurt businessman before growing into a millionaire and mayor of the capital Antananarivo. He came to power in 2002 after a mass demonstration and military intervention forced the former President, Didiér Ratsiraka, to leave office after he had contested Mr Ravalomanana's election victory.
The incumbent President's campaign slogan was based on his record of economic reforms and infrastructure development, which shape the lives of Malagasy citizens. However, his opponents blamed him for not striving hard to alleviate poverty in the country.
According to the 2006 United Nations Human Development Index, 85 percent of the Malagasy live below US$ 2 a day. This placed the country at 143 out of 177 countries on the UN index.
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