ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar — Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina was on course to win reelection Thursday after a vote boycotted by most opposition candidates and as supporters of his party claimed they were promised money in return for backing him.
With 85% of ballots counted, Rajoelina had received 59.7% of the vote in last week’s election, according to the national electoral commission. Such a margin of victory would eliminate the need for a runoff election and give him a third term as leader of the Indian Ocean island of 28 million.
Rajoelina, a former DJ and mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, was president of a post-coup provisional government in 2009-2014. He was elected president in 2019 and gained a degree of notoriety during the coronavirus pandemic by promoting a herbal drink as a cure for COVID-19.
The lead up to the Nov. 16 election was marked by protests against Rajoelina led by opposition candidates. Security forces fired tear gas grenades at demonstrators, and two opposition candidates sustained minor injuries. Some polling stations were torched ahead of the election, which was delayed for a week because of the trouble.
Former President Marc Ravalomanana, who was ousted by Rajoelina in 2009, was one of 10 opposition candidates who boycotted the election, saying that conditions for a legitimate and fair vote hadn’t been met. But his and other the names of other candidates remained on the ballot.
People have lined up outside the offices of Rajoelina’s TGV party in Antananarivo and other major towns since last week to collect party membership cards, which they claimed would allow them to be paid for their votes. Some said they had been promised about $75 for voting for Rajoelina.
TGV has denied promising any money to its supporters. However, party officials have said the membership cards would give people preferential treatment for any future government handouts of food and other provisions in a country the World Bank says has one of the world’s highest poverty rates.
Ten of the 12 opposition candidates called for a boycott of the polls over what they termed an ‘institutional coup’ in support of the incumbent.
Rajoelina, a 49-year-old entrepreneur and former DJ, first became president of the island nation in a 2009 coup. Results are expected to be announced on Friday.