By John Ikani
Madagascar witnessed an early start to the polls on Thursday as voters engaged in a presidential election marked by the absence of 10 out of 12 opposition candidates, along with weeks of unrest.
Despite a night-time curfew imposed the day before, the capital saw a minimal security presence as polling stations opened their doors.
President Andry Rajoelina, eyeing a third term, faces increasing isolation, with prominent opposition figures, including two former presidents, deeming him unfit to run and urging their supporters to refrain from voting.
Rajoelina, however, stressed the importance of democratic processes, stating on Thursday, “The only democratic path… are elections,” while condemning those “who try to cause trouble and stop elections.”
Expressing her hopes for the election outcome, 26-year-old day laborer Rija Ralijaona emphasized the need for the next president to address unemployment. “I expect the next president to create jobs for young people,” she remarked as she prepared to cast her vote at dawn.
Calls from the opposition to postpone the elections found resonance with the organization representing Madagascar’s four largest Christian churches.
The group declared on Wednesday that it would not observe the vote, citing an unfavorable political environment and a lack of standards as reasons for their decision.
Soava Andriamarotafika, a spokesperson for the Independent National Electoral Commission, announced that provisional results are set to be disclosed on November 24.