Candidates in Madagascar’s run-off presidential election face off on Friday, December 20 for the final round in what voters hope will mark the end of five years of political and economic uncertainty in the Indian Ocean Island nation.
Both candidates failed to score a commanding victory in October’s first round, and voters may not deliver a clear mandate to either Hery Rajaonarimampianina, a former finance minister backed by outgoing President Andry Rajoelina, or Jean Louis Robinson, an ally of Marc Ravalomanana, who was deposed by Rajoelina with the army’s help in 2009.
However, old rifts may persist, extending a crisis begun by the 2009 coup that deterred investors and donors of aid to one of Africa’s poorest nations.
Parliamentary polls also taking place on Friday could lead to one camp holding the presidency and the other controlling the legislature, perhaps forcing them into a power-sharing deal.
Smooth elections could help restore the confidence of mining and other investors, revive the battered tourist industry and re-open the aid taps to a country of 22 million people, of whom 9 out of 10 live on less than 2 US dollars a day.
Candidates took part in a televised debate on Wednesday, December 18, and while many voters say it was informative, they also said that it did not change their decision on who to back come Friday.
“There was already a debate such as this one during the time of Presidents Zafy and Didier Ratsiraka, but this time all the aspects have been addressed,” said Lanto Rakotoarisoa, an Antananarivo resident.
“The leaders say they want national reconciliation but they can’t even agree on just one debate,” said Dizo Henri, another resident of the capital.
Political analyst, Gilbert Raharizatovo, said that none of the candidates have the experience to lead the country out of crisis.
“What Madagascar is looking for now is a man who’s able to organise (things), who has a vision, so that’s called a statesman. In Madagascar, it doesn’t really exist. Why? Simply because, in my opinion, a statesman is a man who’s been trained for long years to recognise what are the ethics of governance, the deontology of governance or the deontology of politics,” he said.
Much hangs on how the loser reacts and whether the army, which had backed Rajoelina, stays in its barracks this time.
In the first round Robinson secured 21 percent of the vote, while Rajaonarimampianina won 16 percent, both far short of the 50 percent plus needed for outright victory.