Madagascar election is free and fair, observers say

A voter in Madagascar - 25 October 2013 This poll could end a four-year political deadlock

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International observers have described Madagascar's presidential election as free and transparent, as results slowly come through.

Friday's poll was the first to be held on the island since a coup in 2009.

Preliminary results show that an ally of the ousted leader Marc Ravalomanana has taken an early lead.

Richard Jean-Louis Robinson has about 30% of the votes so far, while his main rival Hery Martial Rakotoarimanana Rajaonarimampianina has just over 15%.

Full results cold take as long as a week to emerge.

If no candidate receives more than 50% of the votes cast, a second round will be held on 20 December.

Election pledges

The EU's chief election observer, Maria Muniz de Urquiza, described Friday's elections as "free, transparent and credible", despite isolated incidents of violence.

Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, the head of the observer mission for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the elections were "peaceful, calm, fair and transparent, and reflect the will of the people".

Richard Jean-Louis Robinson leaves after speaking at a rally in Antananarivo, Madagascar Richard Jean-Louis Robinson has taken an early lead in the poll

The two front-runners, Mr Rajaonarimampianina and Mr Robinson, have both pledged to rebuild Madagascar's economy after years of political unrest.

More than 92% of the country's 21 million people live on less than $2 (£1.20) a day, according to the World Bank.

Mr Rajaonarimampianina says he aims to help the unemployed, build infrastructure to improve agriculture, reform the education system and make Madagascar a strong democracy.

Mr Robinson says that his electoral programme will draw heavily on a new version of Mr Ravalomanana's Madagascar Action Plan (MAP) to help rebuild society and also rejuvenate the ailing tourism industry.

Madagascar has been in political turmoil since 2009, when Andry Rajoelina ousted Marc Ravalomanana from power.

The coup left the country isolated by the international community and deprived of foreign aid.

In January this year Mr Rajoelina and Mr Ravalomanana both agreed not to stand in the polls, in line with a plan agreed with SADC.

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