ANTANANARIVO – Voters in Madagascar head to the polls on Thursday for the first round of a tense presidential election after weeks of opposition protests demanding a “fair and equitable” vote.
Outgoing President Andry Rajoelina, 49, is squaring off against 12 other candidates vying to take the reins of the Indian Ocean island nation, which has a long history of disputed elections.
Press revelations in June that Rajoelina acquired French nationality in 2014 triggered calls for him to be taken out of the race.
In September, the country’s top court dismissed appeals to have Rajoelina’s candidacy declared void, sparking opposition anger.
But that was not the end of it.
As Rajoelina resigned in line with the constitution, in order to run for re-election, the president of the Senate, who was supposed to take over, declined for “personal reasons”.
The task was left to a “collegial government” headed by the prime minister, an ally of Rajoelina, sparking an outcry, with 11 opposition candidates decrying an “institutional coup” to favour the incumbent.
The group has since early October led near daily, unauthorised marches in the capital, Antananarivo, that have been regularly met by a strong police presence.