Monday, April 22

Madagascar rivals both claim poll win, allege fraud

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ANTANANARIVO: Madagascar’s presidential candidates both claimed victory Saturday in run-off polls, each accusing the other of rigging the vote as results started to trickle in.

Mutual mud-slinging marked the long wait as counting continued after elections on Friday aimed at pulling the island from the doldrums following a coup four years ago.

The tiff resembled disputed polls in 2001, when both candidates’ insistence on an outright first-round win led to deadly clashes.

Former health minister Robinson Jean Louis, candidate of ousted president Marc Ravalomanana, told AFP he expected to win 56 per cent, while his opponent Hery Rajaonarimampianina claimed to have taken between 60 and 65 percent.

“Up to now I’m the winner, and we had a little party last night at our headquarters because the voters who came showed we won, at least according to the results we’ve received,” Jean Louis, 61, told AFP in an interview Saturday.

His camp will challenge vote-rigging in court, the freemason doctor said.

“There has been massive fraud,” he charged, adding that ‘an entire airplane’ filled with ballots pre-marked in favour of his rival had been discovered.

Ballot boxes were already half full when people started voting at the polling station where strongman Andry Rajoelina cast his ballot, he alleged.

Meanwhile, the camp of Rajaonarimampianina, 55, a former finance minister under Rajoelina, denied any wrongdoing.

“From our side we haven’t rigged the vote, but actually they did. We have proof,” his spokeswoman Rinah Rakotomanga said.

Friday’s parliamentary and run-off presidential polls were aimed at returning the island to democracy after Rajoelina seized power from Ravalomanana in an army-backed coup in 2009.

The two foes were barred from running for the presidency as the international community fears a return to violence but proxy candidates ran instead.— AFP