DJ, Businessman Face Off in Battle for Madagascar’s Presidency
(Bloomberg) -- Almost a decade after a military-backed ex-nightclub DJ seized power from a business tycoon in Madagascar, the two are squaring up again in a runoff vote to decide who’ll become the next president.
The failure by either candidate to accept the outcome could trigger a repeat of violence that’s marred previous ballots on the Indian Ocean island. That could pose a threat to the world’s biggest vanilla industry and businesses like Sumitomo Corp.’s Ambatovy nickel mine and Rio Tinto Group’s QMM mineral-sands project.
Voting got under way at 6 a.m. Wednesday in the capital, Antananarivo. About 10 million voters are registered to cast their ballots for the candidates: 69-year-old millionaire businessman Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina, 44, whose career spans disc-jockeying at nightclubs in the capital to becoming its mayor.
“Madagascar stands a lot to lose if this election leads to a new crisis,” particularly its bid to encourage foreign investment, said Juvence Ramasy, a political scientist and lecturer at the University of Toamasina in the country’s east.
Foreign direct investment in the country has yet to recover from the record $1.39 billion Madagascar received in 2008, the year before the two candidates became embroiled in a dispute that ended when the army stepped in to support Rajoelina.
Malagasies consider crime and security, along with a lack of roads and other infrastructure as the most pressing problems the government should address, according to a survey published last month by Afrobarometer. Those are issues the two candidates have campaigned on.
Rajoelina has portrayed himself as a “builder” on his Twitter account and has vowed to develop the country’s infrastructure. During his five years in office that followed the 2009 dispute, he struggled to reverse an economic crisis following the suspension of most foreign aid to the government.
Ravalomanana has pledged to accelerate economic growth and strengthen the rule of law. He previously served as president from 2002, when he triggered a political crisis by declaring 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 after clashes between protesters and security forces that left scores of people dead.
The runoff is being held after none of the 36 candidates who ran in the first vote on Nov. 7 won more than 50 percent of the vote. Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who resigned in September to seek re-election, obtained less than 10 percent.
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