Vote counting underway in first round of Madagascar presidential elections

Counting is underway in Madagascar after the first round of voting in the country’s highly contested presidential elections which took place on Thursday following weeks of violent protests.

Ten out of the 12 opposition candidates called for citizens to boycott the vote, saying the conditions for a fair election had not been met

In a statement after polling booths closed, they said the participation rate was the lowest in the country’s history, at around 20 per cent, citing provisional figures from electoral observers.

There were reports of queues at polling stations in areas that support incumbent President Andry Rajoelina, while there were few voters seen in opposition neighbourhoods.

The opposition grouping had been pushing for a postponement of the vote, a call supported by civil society groups.

It also demanded new people be put in charge of the electoral commission and a special court be set up to hear vote disputes.

But Rajoelina, who’s expressed confidence in being re-elected, dismissed this as a political tactic and brushed off the weeks of protests that have rocked the island.

“I’m confident in the maturity of Malagasy democracy, and I’m also confident in the choice of the Malagasy people,” he said, after casting his ballot in the capital, Antananarivo.

A poor turnout is likely to strengthen the hand of the opposition grouping, which has vowed to continue protesting until a fair election is held.

Final results are not expected for at least a week.

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