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Marc Ravalomanana Madagascar Elections Andry Rajoelina

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Low turnout for Madagascar's presidential election runoff

Election officials start vote counting in Antananarivo, 19 December 2018. Photo: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP

Counting is underway in Madagascar following the second round of presidential elections on Wednesday featuring two ex-presidents – Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina. Early indications suggest that turnout for the runoff vote was lower than for the first round which saw almost half of registered voters abstain.

“There’s between four and five per cent less in terms of participation compared to the first round,” the EU's chief observer Cristian Preda told RFI at midday. The EU election monitoring mission noted some minor problems with polling stations opening late due to organisational issues.

Counting is underway at some 24,000 polling stations across Madagascar with results expected at the start of January.

The election pits two ex-presidents who have a rather acrimonious relationship.

Former president Ravalomanana was forced out of office in 2009 in protests led by Rajoelina, a former DJ. Rajoelina went to on to take the presidency, having been installed by the army, and led the country until 2013 when he stepped aside, paving the way for elections won by Hery Rajaonarimampianina.

Both candidates said during campaigning that they had put the past behind them and would accept the results. The two contenders came a close first and second in November’s first round, well ahead of their nearest competitors. Outgoing president Rajaonarimampianina took less than nine per cent.

“I hope that everybody comes to vote,” said Nour, a voter in the capital Antananarivo. “Compared to last month during the first round when there was nearly nobody there,” she said on Wednesday morning after casting her ballot.

More election observers than voters at opening of polling station in Antananarivo.

Turnout in the first round was 54 per cent and no candidate secured the 50 per cent of votes needed to avoid a second round. The country has more than 10 million registered voters.

The election campaigning period was calm despite the animosity between the two contenders. During the final televised debate both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina accused one another of corruption, incompetence and authoritarianism.