Rajoelina Surges Ahead: Madagascar's Early Poll Results Amidst Boycott and Sparse Voter Turnout

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) — In the aftermath of Madagascar's recent election, incumbent president Andry Rajoelina has surged ahead with a substantial lead, securing 71.26% of the votes according to preliminary results released by the country's elections management body, Céni. The election, overshadowed by a majority of candidates boycotting and characterized by a notably low voter turnout, paints a complex picture of the island nation's political landscape.

Rajoelina's commanding position is contrasted by the abstention of 10 candidates, including former president Marc Ravalomanana, who voiced concerns over the legitimacy and fairness of the electoral process. Despite the boycott, their names remained on the ballot, contributing to the intricate dynamics of the unfolding political scenario.

With less than 9% of polling stations reporting by Friday midday, pro-government media outlets have already proclaimed a resounding victory for Rajoelina. Headlines such as "It's done" from the Madagascar Express and "Very likely victory in the first round" from La Vérité suggest an air of confidence surrounding the incumbent president's camp.

However, the election has been marred by a low voter turnout, as a significant portion of the population adhered to the collective call by the 10 candidates to refrain from participating in the electoral process. Civil society organizations and the country's main churches echoed this sentiment, advocating for a postponement of the election.

Preliminary figures indicate that just under 40% of Madagascar's 11 million voters cast their ballots, underscoring a notable disengagement from the electoral process. The elections management body is set to release "provisional consolidated results" between Nov. 24 and Nov. 25, with the official results to be proclaimed by the country's High Constitutional Court in early December.

A potential runoff scheduled for Dec. 20 looms if none of the candidates secures more than 50% of the vote. However, the opposition has preemptively declared non-recognition of the election results. Hery Rajaonarimampianina, a former president speaking on behalf of the collective of 10 candidates that boycotted the election, emphasized, "The majority of Malagasy people expressed themselves through the fact that they stayed at home."

Madagascar, with a population largely entrenched in poverty, grapples with economic challenges centered on agriculture and tourism, heavily reliant on foreign aid. As the political drama unfolds, the nation awaits the final chapter in a contentious election that could shape its future trajectory.

As Madagascar navigates the aftermath of a hotly contested election, the political landscape remains complex and uncertain. Incumbent president Andry Rajoelina's substantial lead, despite a significant boycott by 10 candidates, underscores the intricate dynamics shaping the nation's political narrative.

The proclamations of victory by pro-government media outlets stand in contrast to the low voter turnout, as a substantial portion of the population heeded the call to stay away from voting booths. The concerns raised by the boycotting candidates, echoed by civil society organizations and major churches, add a layer of skepticism to the electoral process.

With preliminary figures indicating a participation rate of just under 40%, Madagascar grapples with questions of political engagement and the legitimacy of the electoral outcome. The forthcoming release of "provisional consolidated results" and subsequent official pronouncements by the High Constitutional Court in December will be critical moments in determining the nation's political direction.

The scheduled runoff on Dec. 20, contingent on none of the candidates securing more than 50% of the vote, introduces another layer of uncertainty. The opposition's preemptive rejection of the election results sets the stage for potential post-election challenges and disputes.

Amidst these challenges, Madagascar's socio-economic landscape, characterized by widespread poverty and dependence on agriculture and tourism, adds further complexity to the unfolding political drama. As the nation awaits the final chapter of this contentious election, it does so with a sense of anticipation and apprehension, recognizing that the outcome holds profound implications for the future trajectory of the island nation.