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Madagascar ex-president denies election bribery claims

Madagascar presidential candidate Andry Rajoelina (C) is the frontrunner in the November 7 ballot, according to preliminary results
Madagascar presidential candidate Andry Rajoelina (C) is the frontrunner in the November 7 ballot, according to preliminary results Madagascar presidential candidate Andry Rajoelina (C) is the frontrunner in the November 7 ballot, according to preliminary results AFP
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Antananarivo (AFP)

Madagascar's former president Andry Rajoelina on Monday rejected allegations by EU observers that he bribed local officials in return for their support in last week's presidential vote.

A European Union observer mission said in a report Monday that it had "noted candidates committed breaches" ahead of the November 7 poll in the poor Indian Ocean island.

Race frontrunner Rajoelina had paid a total of 4,500 euros ($5,000) to two local chiefs, it said.

However, the report also found that the election overall passed off normally and irregularities had been "very isolated".

In a statement seen by AFP, Rajoelina said he "deplored the false allegation on page 10 of the report alleging the payment of money".

He insisted he "had never offered such a sum of cash".

Rajoelina leads the election battle ahead of his rival Marc Ravalomanana, also a former president, according to preliminary results released by the CENI electoral authority Monday.

After counting from nearly half of the polling stations, Rajoelina was ahead with 39.34 percent of the votes against 35.97 percent for Ravalomanana.

Outgoing president Hery Rajaonarimampianina had barely eight percent of ballots, CENI said.

Madagascar's electoral regulations mean the two frontrunners will be forced into a run-off in December if neither manages to secure more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round ballot.

Madagascar is one of the world's poorest countries, according to World Bank data, with almost four in five people living in grinding poverty.

It has struggled to overcome political divisions after a disputed 2001 election that sparked clashes and after a 2009 military-backed coup.

Both Ravalomanana and Rajaonarimampianina, who governed from 2014 to September 2018, have denounced irregularities and fraud, but the national election commission has rejected the accusations.

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