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Madagascar runoff: Contenders claim victory

 

The candidates in Madagascar’s presidential election run-off have claimed victory, following a fiercely-contested race between Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina.

The two candidates have each held the top job in the Indian Ocean island previously.

But on Wednesday night, both men declared themselves winners in the two-horse race which analysts warned was likely to draw claims of fraud.

“Change is coming tomorrow, and today you can say that ‘Papa’ is elected,” Mr. Ravalomanana told supporters at his headquarters, using his nickname.

“I am sure I’m going to win but we’ll wait for the official results,” Mr. Rajoelina told his own loyalists.

Mr. Rajoelina, forty-four,  and Mr. Ravalomanana, sixty-nine, who came a close first and second in November’s first-round election, were both banned from running in the 2013 ballot.

Their exclusion was part of a deal to end recurring crises that have rocked Madagascar since independence from France in 1960.

In the first round, Mr. Rajoelina got 39% to Mr. Ravalomanana’s 35%.

Either camp accused the other of fraud and cheating.

The polls closed on Wednesday evening, with the first significant results due only by next week.

The EU observer mission, which said turnout was around 50%, has urged candidates and their supporters to wait patiently for the official results.

Mr. Ravalomanana  was first elected president in 2002, but was forced out seven years later by violent protests supported by Mr. Rajoelina, who had been mayor of the capital Antananarivo.

For his part, Mr. Rajoelina was installed by the military and ruled until 2014.

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