Madagascar votes in presidential run-off

Richard Jean-Louis Robinson and Laola Ravalomanana (18 December 2013) Richard Jean-Louis Robinson took the lead in the October poll

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Voters in Madagascar are taking part in a second round of a presidential election, after October's round failed to produce an outright winner.

The two frontrunners are allies of the island's main political rivals - incumbent President Andry Rajoelina and the man he ousted, Marc Ravalomanana. Both were barred from standing.

Parliamentary elections are also taking place.

The ballots are the first to be held since a 2009 military-backed takeover.

"I really want to see change in this country. For the past five years it's been truly horrible," Fanjatiana Ramanantsoa told the AFP news agency as she stood in line to vote at a primary school in the capital Antananarivo.

Economic paralysis

Foreign election observers described the first round as free, transparent and credible, despite isolated incidents of violence.

Richard Jean-Louis Robinson, a former health minister in Mr Ravalomanana's government, won 21% of the vote in October.

His opponent, ruling party candidate Hery Martial Rakotoarimanana Rajaonarimampianina, obtained just over 15%.

Both men have made similar pledges to rebuild the island's economy.

Supporters of Jean Louis Robinson in Madagascar (18 December 2013) The election is aimed at ending a four-year political deadlock

Friday's poll will also elect 151 lawmakers for a five-year term. The first task of the new MPs will be to nominate a prime minister.

The polls are being organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission of the Transition (Cenit) - an independent electoral body funded by the United Nations.

Cenit says there are 7,697,382 registered voters and 20,115 polling stations in Madagascar, a country the size of France with a scattered population.

Close to 400 international observers are expected to monitor the presidential run-off and legislative elections.

Madagascar was plunged into political turmoil in 2009, when Mr Rajoelina overthrew Mr Ravalomanana's democratically-elected government.

The country has suffered economic paralysis after international sanctions were imposed following the military-backed takeover.

More than 92% of the country's 21 million people live on less than $2 (£1.2) a day, according to the World Bank.

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