Hoping their country would soon be lifted out of economic chaos and political instability, the people of Madagascar voted in presidential elections in late 2013. A provisional winner has just been announced.
Former finance minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina was winning a presidential runoff, according to provisional results released on Friday (03.01.2014).
Rajaonarimampianina is considered a proxy for the leader of Madagascar's 2009 military-backed coup, Andry Rajoelina, who is also the current president.
Rajaonarimampianina received 53.5 percent of the ballots cast in the December 20 vote while his rival, Jean Louis Robinson, took 46.5 per cent, the election commission said.
Former health minister Robinson is held to be the representative of Marc Ravalomanana, the democratically elected president who was ousted in the 2009 coup.
Both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina were barred from contesting the election.
Allegations of ballot rigging
Robinson stayed away from the results' declaration. He and his campaign team claim the poll was rigged.
"We have said all along there was massive electoral fraud across Madagascar," said Elyse Razaka who helped run Robinson's campaign. "Robinson won't order people to take to the streets. But it is different if there is a spontaneous movement."
Rajaonarimampianina said he was urging the Malagasy people "to await the final result in complete serenity."
An electoral court has to rule on the commission's provisional result by January 19.
Madagascar's electoral commission president Beatrice Atallah said her conscience was clear. "The elections were held in total transparency," she declared.
A first round of the election on October 25, 2013 ended inconclusively.
Election seen as key to country's recovery
Paul Melly, Associate Fellow with the Africa Programme at Chatham House, UK, told DW's Africalink show that if the result was confirmed and if Robinson eventually accepted the vote, then "it would a huge step forward for Madagascar."
The 2009 coup brought political instability to the tropical island off East Africa and saw the economy nose-dive.
"The price that ordinary Malagasy have paid has been terrible," said Melly.
All new aid has been suspended since the coup with the exception of one new World Bank credit.
Madagascar also lost access to the US trade privileges that were absolutely vital for its textile industry which is the biggest private sector employer.
The Malagasy people perceived the election as crucial in reversing their country's declining fortunes.
Just over half of the 7.9 million registered voters cast a ballot in the second round in December, the electoral commission said, reflecting a broad distrust of politicians that has deepened along with poverty levels in one of Africa's poorest states.