25 October 2013

Madagascar Votes in Bid to Revive Democracy

Madagascar was voting Friday in long-delayed presidential elections meant to restore democracy and pull the island nation out of the crisis it plunged ... ( Resource: Madagascar Strongman Votes in First Post-Coup Polls

Nearly eight million people in Madagascar were expected to vote for a new president, in an election postponed several times and widely expected to break the country's five-year political impasse.

Since late 2008, the "Big Island" has been mired in a political crisis that has had a severe impact on the economy and social indicators. Nine out of ten people live today under the poverty line.

By going to the polls, people are pinning their hopes on a return to constitutional order, economic growth and development.

In the capital, Antananarivo, where both the election campaign and the vote itself were held peacefully, long queues were seen as polling stations opened at 6 in the morning.

"Not only will I fulfill my duty as a citizen, but I was motivated to vote today to finally choose a democratically-elected president," said Viviane, who works as a bank clerk.

Edoany Govin, a 47 year-old priest, said he expects a return to stability: "We want to get out of the crisis, we need a democratically-elected president who will develop the country."

The polls were organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission of the Transition (CENIT) - an independent electoral body funded by the United Nations. The commission had to dispatch voting slips, ballot boxes and other materials to more than 20,000 polling stations by plane, truck, canoe and even on foot.

"The commission has no room for error," said Beatrice Atallah, President of the CENIT. "These are end of crisis elections," and Madagascar "must rejoin the concert of nations, so that people can live together in peace and serenity."

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been tasked with supporting the Commission in the organization of elections.

UNDP supported the vote, helping to print 7.8 million voting cards, training polling officials in 1,500 municipalities and working with 470 Civil Society representatives, 48 percent of them women, to promote dialogue and send early warnings on any potential incidents.

UNDP assisted the Commission in particular to update and centralize the voting register in the capital. Nine million ballots and as many voting cards, 24,000 ballot boxes and polling booths were purchased through UNDP.

Approximately 140,000 polling officials, 62,000 members of the CENIT, as well as journalists, senior army personnel and police were trained on how to fulfill their duties and responsibilities during the elections.

Four hundred and seventy civil society representatives, 48 percent of them women, were trained in conflict prevention, mediation and early warning techniques.

In addition, an extensive civic education and advocacy campaign was conducted throughout the country, educating voters on the first-time use of single ballots. The events included two awareness caravans and a concert targeting 40,000 people in Antananarivo.

Twelve spots in local languages were aired on radio and national television, explaining the different stages of the election.

"UNDP has been involved in all aspects of the vote and we will continue to support the country efforts to consolidate democracy . The goal is to stop this free fall, that has degraded the population's living conditions since the beginning of the crisis," said Fatma Samura, UNDP Resident Representative in Madagascar.

The aim is "to reconcile the people of Madagascar with themselves and lay the foundations for sustainable, fair and equitable development", she said as the vote came to a close.

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