As Three Ex-Leaders Clash, Madagascar Vote Is Far From Vanilla - EcoFinBiz Blog

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As Three Ex-Leaders Clash, Madagascar Vote Is Far From Vanilla

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(Bloomberg) -- Three former presidents who’ve been embroiled in long-running disputes are running against each other in an election Wednesday in Madagascar, the world’s biggest vanilla grower.

Since 2002, balloting on the Indian Ocean island nation has been prone to instability, prompting the United Nations to mediate talks with the ex-leaders in the run-up to the vote. Though a total of 36 candidates are running for the presidency, the three men attracted the largest crowds at colorful rallies with singers and fireworks.

Voting began at 6 a.m. and is scheduled to end at 5 p.m.

The ex-presidents’ rocky relationships raise the risk of instability after the vote, said Jean Claude de l’Estrac, a former secretary-general of the Indian Ocean Commission. A second round of voting is scheduled for December if no candidate garners more than 50 percent of ballots.

“There are concerns when you have three former presidents competing, and their differences aren’t only political, and there’s also some personal animosity in what separates them,” De l’Estrac said. “If the first-round results aren’t clear cut, we have reason to fear that elements of crisis might erupt.”

Disputed Votes

Ex-President Hery Rajaonarimampianina, 60, resigned in September to run for re-election after a term that was marred by protests from lawmakers who tried to remove him on grounds that he failed to abide by the constitution. He’s facing Andry Rajoelina, 44, who was sworn in as transitional president after a disputed election in 2009.

While Rajoelina portrays himself as a “builder” on his Twitter account and has pledged to develop the country’s infrastructure, during his five years in office he struggled to reverse an economic crisis following the suspension of most foreign aid to the government.

The third former leader is Marc Ravalomanana, a 68-year-old millionaire businessman who triggered a political crisis in 2002 when he declared himself president without waiting for a runoff after a disputed vote. He was re-elected in 2006, but forced to resign by the army in 2009 following clashes between protesters and security forces that left scores of people dead.

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, with three-quarters of the population living on the equivalent of $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank. While high vanilla prices boosted export earnings last year, a severe drought and several cyclones cut the supply of locally grown rice and triggered a contraction in agriculture.

To contact the reporters on this story: Aina Rahagalala in Antananarivo at arahagalala@bloomberg.net;Kamlesh Bhuckory in Port Louis at kbhuckory1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Karl Maier at kmaier2@bloomberg.net, Pauline Bax, Paul Richardson

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