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Madagascar's provisional results say Rajoelina wins presidential runoff

Malin Palm, REUTERS | Andry Rajoelina salutes his supporters during a campaign rally at the Coliseum stadium in Antananarivo, Madagascar, on November 3, 2018.

Madagascar's electoral commission announced provisional results in the runoff presidential election, saying Andry Rajoelina received more than 55 percent of the vote while Marc Ravalomanana received more than 44 percent.

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Madagascar's High Constitutional Court has nine days from Thursday to decide whether to confirm the provisional results.

Just over 48 percent of voters cast their ballots in the December 19 runoff between the candidates, both former heads of state and bitter rivals.

Ravalomanana has denounced what he called "massive fraud" in the runoff and earlier this week urged supporters to "defend" their votes. He is expected to challenge the results at the constitutional court.

Only Rajoelina attended Thursday's announcement, with the president of the electoral commission, Hery Rakotomanana, noting Ravalomanana's absence with regret.

"We need calm," Rajoelina said. "The people of this country don't need trouble." He declared the election over until 2023. And he rejected any idea of fraud: "We don't know how to cheat. We don't know how to steal."

Profile: Andry Rajoelina

The two former presidents were facing off for the first time since political turmoil in 2009 forced Ravalomanana from power. Both had said they would accept the runoff election's results, though Ravalomanana specified that the vote must take place "in good conditions".

The 44-year-old Rajoelina, who was president from 2009 to 2014 during a transitional government, had campaigned on his youth while the 69-year-old Ravalomanana, who led from 2002 to 2009, had pointed to his experience.

Ravalomanana was forced to quit the presidency in 2009 after a series of military-backed challenges supported by Rajoelina, who was mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, at the time.

Marcus Schneider discusses the high abstention rate

The EU observer mission said the December 19 runoff election was calm.

"We did not see any fraud,” Cristian Preda, head of the observation mission of the European Union, said last week. “Both accused each other of fraud, but neither of them had any proof. There are allegations not facts. We told them to bring this to justice."

Campaigning had been largely peaceful in this former French colony, which the World Bank ranks as one of the world's poorest nations, though rich in ecological diversity.

More than two-thirds of the island's 25 million people live in extreme poverty, while corruption is said to be widespread.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS, AFP)

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