Long-Awaited Madagascar Elections Go to Second Round

Madagascar is headed to a presidential run-off. Results have been slow to trickle in since elections were held on October 25, 2013 -the first since a military-backed coup in 2009- but the final tally shows that candidate Jean-Louis Robinson won 21.1 percent of the vote, and Hery Rajaonarimampianina won about 15.9 percent. 

The second round is scheduled for December 20. These two candidates are considered to be proxies for former President Marc Ravalomanana, who was ousted in 2009, and Andry Rajoelina, who is the current transition president. Both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina were barred from the presidential elections.

The elections were highly anticipated, and while polling was “largely peaceful” and international observers were quick to describe the process as “free and fair”, many potential voters were prevented from casting their vote due to problems with the electoral lists, allAfrica.com reported.

The two candidates remaining in the run off JL Robinson (left) and H  Rajaonarimampianina. Photo via Ta Ramses on Facebook (with permission)

The two candidates who will go to the second round of elections: Jean-Louis Robinson (left) and Hery Rajaonarimampianina. Photo via Ta Ramses on Facebook (used with permission)

Bloggers reacted to the results. Lalatiana Pitchboule, on his blog [fr], wrote:

Au cœur d’un bureau populaire lors de la soirée électorale, je peux témoigner de l’enthousiasme de nos citoyens vis-à-vis du processus. Et de leur respect des résultats. Magnifique illustration de démocratie populaire ou chaque bulletin annoncé faisait l’objet d’une joyeuse approbation.

I was present in a polling station during the electoral night and I can attest to the enthusiasm of our citizens for the electoral process. I witnessed their respect of the results. Magnificent show of democracy where each vote announced was saluted by joyous approval

A video from Tossoa Bacca illustrated the atmosphere at a polling station [mg]:

Others tried to project the results of the second-round vote based on first-round results:

#mdg2013: A map of the results per district can give indication of how the run off might look like… http://t.co/X1FT6qzOEc

#Madagascar: Candidate JL Robinson cannot win. The HAT [The Transitional Authority] will do anything to stay in power.

Some pessimistic voices already predict yet another crisis, as reported on Radio France Internationale [fr]:

tous les ingrédients d’une nouvelle crise sont d’ores et déjà présents : des institutions peu fiables, une élection organisée à la va-vite sans le préalable d’un contexte apaisé… D’ailleurs, plusieurs candidats ont demandé l’annulation du premier tour. L’un de ses propres alliés a accusé le candidat d’Etat, Monsieur Hery Rajaornarimampianina, d’avoir enfreint les règles et a exigé sa disqualification ! Les exemples de contestation de la sincérité du vote sont légion. Dans ce contexte, si le candidat d’Etat devait remporter au deuxième tour, il n’aurait jamais la légitimité nécessaire pour asseoir son autorité présidentielle.

Il n’y a aucune chance que le candidat de l’opposition gagne les élections car ceux qui tiennent l’Etat aujourd’hui feront tout pour garder le pouvoir. Le « ni-ni » (ni candidature de Rajoelina ni celle de Ravalomanana) a été une énorme erreur, comme les résultats du premier tour le montrent. Les électeurs ont remis en selle les deux camps qui étaient responsables de la crise de 2009 et ont éliminé tous ceux qui se revendiquaient de la troisième voie

All ingredients for a new crisis are already present: weak institutions, hastily organized elections without previously appeasing the environment… Additionally, several candidates have requested annulment of the first rounds. One of his own allies has accused the transitional regime's candidate, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, of having transgressed rules and demanded his disqualification! Examples of rebuttal of votes’ reliability abound. In this context, if the transitional regime's candidate would win the second rounds, he would never have the necessary legitimacy to settle his presidential authority.

There is no chance that the opposition's candidate win the elections because those who are in power today will do anything to keep it. The “neither nor” (neither Rajoelina's nor Ravalomanana's candidacies were accepted) was a monumental mistake, as demonstrated by the first round results. Voters reestablished both sides responsible for the 2009 crisis and eliminated all those who requested a third way.

Meanwhile, despite electoral laws prohibiting the transition president from explicitly coming out in favor of a candidate, Andry Rajoelina has publicly confirmed his support of Rajaonarimampianina, his former Minister of Finance. Radio France Internationale [fr] reported:

“Jean-Eric Rakotoarisoa, professeur de droit à l'Université d'Antananarivo, le confirme : « Ce soutien d'Andry Rajoelina peut amener à la disqualification d'Hery Rajaonarimampianina. Pour ça, il faudrait que la Cour électorale spéciale [CES, ndlr] soit saisie d'une requête, et quelle détermine si, dans les faits, Hery Rajaonarimampianina a bénéficié, ou bénéficie, du soutien d'Andry Rajoelina. »

Jean-Eric Rakotoarisoa, Law Professor at the University of Antananarivo, confirms : “Andry Rajoelina's support can lead to Hery Rajaonarimampianina's disqualification. For this to happen, the Special Electoral Court would investigate and determine if in fact, Hery Rajaonarimampianiana has benefited, or benefits, from Andry Rajoelina's support”.

Journalist Sébastien Hervieu reported the reaction of the opposition candidate to this well-known but unexpected support [fr]:

Friday, Robinson Jean Louis told me he would request Rajoelina's resignation if he officialy supported a candidate

Susanne compared electoral season to Carnival in Madagascar:

“In Madagascar voting is not so obvious. The are no political parties. No election manifestos. No ideology, no left- or right-, or center, no Republicans or Democrates [sic]. It's hard to make an informed choice if you can not [sic] compare programs. So how can a candidate capture a voter's attention? With T-shirts. Many t-shirts. And songs. One candidate is called Sylvain. His slogan is “Sylvain sur vingt” (quite funny). His song is brilliant: Bye Bye unemployment, bye bye famin[e], bye bye disease.  To me, half of the songs sounds like straight from church, the others like Caribbean carnival hits. Some candidates even dress like calypso artists.”

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