Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Madagascar preparing for Presidential run-off election

Madagascar holds a second round of voting on Friday to complete its first presidential election since a 2009 coup that scared off foreign donors and investors.The two contestants in the run-off vote are not political heavyweights, but are allies of the island's two main rivals: the coup leader-turned-president, Andry Rajoelina, and the man he ousted with the army's help, Marc Ravalomanana. Ravalomanana and Rajoelina had agreed not to run in the election in a regionally-brokered deal to defuse tensions. A last minute attempt by Rajoelina to run when Ravalomanana's wife stepped into the race led to a court order blocking both.

Jean Louis Robinson

The former health minister is backed by Ravalomanana, who has been exiled in South Africa since dissident troops swung behind anti-government protests that led to his 2009 overthrow.The former leader turned to Robinson only after his wife Lalao was barred from running for president. Robinson, 61, emerged the frontrunner in October's first round with 21 percent of the vote and the clear winner in the capital, Antananarivo, where there is widespread frustration at the economic malaise gripping the nickel-producing island.

Robinson, a physician with a black belt in judo, says the political fight won't be over until Ravalomanana returns to the island that lies off southern Africa. He has declared Lalao Ravalomanana will be his prime minister if he wins the vote. She has been glued to his side during campaigning. An adviser to Ravalomanana's first prime minister in 2002, Robinson was health minister in 2004-08 and minister of sports and culture in 2008-09.

He promises an improved version of Ravalomanana's Madagascar Action Plan to promote development in one of Africa's poorest countries by increasing investment, collecting more taxes and launching an agricultural revolution. That plan briefly boosted economic growth to about 7 percent a year before the coup.

Hery Rajaonarimampianina

A finance minister under Rajoelina, 55-year-old Rajaonarimampianina has pitched himself as the best-placed person to marshal a recovery of Madagascar's crippled economy.Donors turned off budgetary aid taps and foreign investors fled after Rajoelina's coup, depriving the government of cash and stunting growth. Even so, policymakers have been praised for keeping spending in check, prices stable and inflation at bay.

Educated in Canada, Rajaonarimampianina's campaign has focused on restoring security, building new roads and improving access to education.He served as finance minister from 2009 to 2013, stepping down to run for president. He is backed by Rajoelina, so likely has the support of the military commanders who backed the former disk jockey's power grab five years ago. He won 16 percent of the vote in the first round and will need to win some of the major coastal cities to offset Robinson's advantage in the capital, analysts say.

Source: Voice of America

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