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Voting starts in Madagascar's crunch referendum

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-11-17

Despite international condemnation and an opposition boycott, Madagascar is holding its first poll since a March 2009 coup. Wednesday’s constitutional referendum has been criticised as a bid to shore up current strongman Andry Rajoelina’s power.

AFP - Voting got off to a calm and orderly start Wednesday in Madagascar's constitutional referendum, meant to kickstart a process aimed at solving the island's political crisis, an AFP journalist said.
  
In the capital Antananarivo, voters were ready and waiting when polling stations opened at 6:00 am (0300 GMT).
  
"People seem to be taking an interest. There were people already waiting at 6:00 am," said Rija Rakotobe, an official in charge of a polling station in the capital where half a dozen people were queueing up to vote.
  
The referendum is the first poll since the March 2009 coup that ousted elected president Marc Ravalomanana and brought the Indian Ocean island's current strongman Andry Rajoelina to power.
  
It marks the first phase of a process agreed to by Rajoelina and around 100 small political movements to lift the island out of political limbo. The process has however been rejected by the opposition and criticised by the international community.
  
Just under eight million voters are eleigible to cast their ballots Wednesday.
  
Turnout will be key as the main opposition groups, headed by three former presidents, are calling for a boycott, arguing that Rajoelina has reneged on past deals and that Madagascar needs a broader consensus before voting its way out of the crisis.
  
The international community, on which the Madagascan economy is highly reliant, has made its scepticism clear.
  
"The political structures and processes created by the de-facto government remain insufficiently democratic and consensual," US Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Karl Wycoff said during a visit earlier this month.
  
With opposition heavyweights simply boycotting the vote, the "no" camp has struggled to rally any significant support.
 

Date created : 2010-11-17

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