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Rajaonarimampianina declared president-elect of Madagascar

Madagascar on Friday declared Hery Rajaonarimampianina as the country’s new president following elections aimed at restoring democracy. The Canadian-educated former finance minister is backed by incumbent Andry Rajoelina, who staged a coup in 2009.


Rajaonarimampianina, 55, was “declared officially president of the Republic of Madagascar,” with just over 53 percent of the votes, said the president of the electoral court, Francois Rakotozafy.

The new president-elect vowed to work together with his opponents and bring prosperity to the Indian Ocean island nation.

“I will be the president of all of you without distinction,” he said in Malagasy after the court’s announcement. “I’m asking for your help so we can develop the country.”

His backer, incumbent strongman Rajoelina, seized power from then-president Marc Ravalomanana five years ago, plunging Madagascar into political and economic crisis.

Their proxy candidates dominated the vote, after the two rivals were prevented from running for office due to international pressure over fears of a return to violence.

The announcement of the election result had been delayed pending the court’s ruling on allegations of voting irregularities, following a challenge by runner-up Jean-Louis Robinson.

Robinson, 61, who was backed by Ravalomanana and garnered 46.51 percent of the vote, on Friday rejected the court’s declaration.

“We contest this result because none of our complaints were heard. They said there wasn’t proof but we’ve given a lot of proof,” he said.

Rajaonarimampianina’s inauguration “will be void”, he added.

International green light

Despite the mud-slinging, international observers gave the vote the green light and called on the parties to respect the electoral process.

The scale and duration of the electoral row will decide whether Madagascar is allowed back into the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, which suspended the country after the coup.

A drawn-out dispute is likely to further stir up the nickel-producing island's volatile political scene and could delay restoring the external budget support needed to spur public spending and kick-start growth.

The World Bank has estimated that the political turmoil cost Madagascar around $8 billion in lost growth.

The economy grew 3.1 percent in 2012, lagging well behind most fast-growing African nations.

Nine out of 10 people in Madagascar live on less than $2 a day.

Although prevented from running as president, Rajoelina may yet make a comeback on the political scene. His camp last week claimed to have won enough parliamentary seats to name a prime minister.

Rajoelina has hinted that he could stay in power as premier at the side of his candidate, a scenario reminiscent of Russia, where President Vladimir Putin served as prime minister under president Dmitry Medvedev before returning as head of state in 2012.

“Everyone should accept the court’s result,” mechanic Faly Ranarison told Reuters shortly before Friday’s ruling. “Let the country be peaceful and wait for the next election to set the record straight.”

The streets of the capital Antananarivo, where Rajaonarimampianina had struggled to win support in the first round, were calm after the court's announcement, though some fretted about the risk of unrest.

“I’m worried,” said teacher Noro Ravaonirina. “Recently there’s been talk, for right or wrong, about vote rigging. In such an environment you can't exclude that the loser won’t accept his defeat easily.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, Reuters)

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