Madagascar president re-elected as opposition denounces irregularities

Andry Rajoelina has secured a third term in an election marred by a low turnout and an opposition boycott.

Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina, centre, attends the announcement of the provisional results in the first round of presidential elections in Antananarivo, November 25, 2023 [Rijasolo/AFP]

Madagascar‘s President Andry Rajoelina has effectively secured a third term after the electoral body (CENI) said he had obtained the most votes in an election marked by low turnout and an opposition boycott.

Provisional results announced on Saturday by CENI at the end of tallying showed Rajoelina garnered 58.9 percent of the vote followed by Siteny Randrianasoloniaiko, a lawmaker, who got 14.4 percent. The country’s High Constitutional Court is mandated to announce final results within nine days after the poll body declares provisional results.

“The Malagasy people have chosen the path of continuity, serenity and stability,” Rajoelina, a 49-year-old entrepreneur and former DJ, said after the results were announced.

“I thank the Malagasy people who now refuse to choose the wrong path, who no longer accept to take the path of unrest. Democracy is exercised through elections and not in the streets or through unrest.”

But Randrianasoloniaiko told the AFP news agency on Saturday he had appealed to the country’s apex court to demand the cancellation of the vote result.

“I filed two requests to request the cancellation of the vote and the disqualification of Andry Rajoelina,” Randrianasoloniaiko told the agency, denouncing electoral fraud.

Opposition candidates had declared on Friday they would not accept the results.

“We cannot legitimise the results that will come out,” said Hajo Andrianainarivelo, who was among 10 of the 13 candidates initially cleared to run who told voters to boycott the poll.

He said the poll had been tainted by irregularities including intimidation of polling officials and use of public resources by the governing party, which has denied the claims.

‘Unfair’ conditions

The majority of the opposition, aligned in the so-called Collectif des 10  – a group of 10 candidates – boycotted the election. The group has led street protests in the capital Antananarivo almost every day in recent weeks, several of which were dispersed with tear gas and police arrested many participants and bystanders.

The United Nations human rights office said that Malagasy security forces had used “unnecessary and disproportionate force” against peaceful protesters.

Opposition supporters claimed Rajoelina should not have run because he acquired French nationality in 2014 – which they say automatically revokes his Malagasy one – and had created unfair election conditions.

Collectif des 10 later asked the poll body to postpone the election saying the state needed to first appoint independent officials on the electoral body. When CENI refused, they decided to ask voters to boycott the poll.

Subsequently, only three candidates campaigned. Roughly 46.4 percent of voters cast their ballots, according to CENI, with the opposition describing it as the lowest turnout in the country’s history.

Rajoelina first rose to power in the Indian Ocean island nation in a 2009 coup. He then stepped down after almost five years as leader of a transitional authority and then became president again after winning a 2018 election.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies